Merrimack County Conservation District strives to increase access to healthy, fresh, and local foods across all socio-economic lines. A healthy community rests upon the health of its members. With enhanced means to procure fresh fruits and vegetables, residents are able to make healthy choices for their families, while supporting the economic health of local producers within their community.
More than 44, 000 New Hampshire households do not have sufficient access to healthy foods. Throughout Merrimack County, there are a number of low income and low food access areas. Merrimack County is comprised of 27 towns and is home to a population of around 146,807. Within this population, 10.3 % of children in Merrimack County live in poverty.
In 2014, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) reached 111,701 New Hampshire residents, with almost 70% of beneficiaries comprised of families with children. Throughout Merrimack County, over 13,000 residents receive SNAP benefits. While this program is pivotal in boosting the recipient’s ability to purchase food, it is not always enough. According USDA’s 2014 data, the average amount of SNAP benefits distributed per month in New Hampshire was $104.98 per person, or about $3.50 per day.
Merrimack County Conservation District is working towards cultivating food equity in New Hampshire. MCCD currently coordinates two programs targeted at alleviating food insecurity:
MCCD hosts a token program at the Concord and Penacook Farmers’ market, enabling customers to shop with SNAP/EBT, credit, and debit. This increases the buying power of SNAP/EBT customers and makes affordable options available. MCCD wants to bring this token program to more markets within Merrimack County, more effectively creating food equity in Central New Hampshire.
MCCD is also a part of a statewide gleaning effort, NH Gleans. Fresh foods are collected from local farms and distributed to food pantries, soup kitchens, homeless shelters, and schools within Merrimack County. Food pantries are often met with a limited supply of fresh fruits and vegetables, and with the help of our local producers, MCCD is able to bring fresh produce to those in need.
MCCD uses these programs to not only increase food access, but also to encourage participation in the local economy. Assisting residents with ability to access fresh, local foods not only enhances the health of their family, but also the health of their community by supporting NH’s food producers.
Since the launch of MCCD’s Local Food Initiatives in 2014, we have witnessed marked expansion.
1. In July 2015, MCCD added an incentive program, Granite State Market Match, to its token program at the Concord and Penacook Farmers’ markets. SNAP funds are matched dollar for dollar, up to $10, for customers to spend at the market. http://www.theconcordinsider.com/2015/07/07/granite-state-market-match-at-local-markets/
2. At the end of the 2014 gleaning season, MCCD partnered with nine local producers, bringing donated foods to seven service organizations. So far in 2015, MCCD has partnered with 23 local producers, providing 25 service organizations throughout Merrimack County with fresh, local foods. http://www.theconcordinsider.com/2015/07/14/join-the-merrimack-county-conservation-district-to-fight-hunger/
3. MCCD has partnered with a local elementary/middle school to provide them with gleaned fruits and vegetables for the school children. To utilize year-round enjoyment of these local foods for the students, MCCD provided the school with a flash-freeze unit. http://andoverbeacon.com/index.php/19227/fresh-local-produce-flash-frozen-at-aems/
4. MCCD is currently working towards bringing its SNAP/EBT token program to winter farmers’ markets, creating year-round access to fresh, local foods.
5. MCCD began participating in the Salvation Army’s Local Aid Resource Group. These monthly meetings bring together representatives from service agencies throughout the county and offer an exchange of ideas and resources to promote and address the needs of the community.
Geographical Community Served
Merrimack County Conservation District (MCCD) serves all communities within Merrimack County. For more information about Merrimack County Conservation District, feel free to visit www.merrimackccd.org.
NH Food Bank, Wholesome Wave, NH Charitable Foundation, Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare, NH Farm to School, Concord Farmers’ Market, Penacook Village Farmers’ Market, Contoocook Winter Farmers’ Market, Andover Elementary/Middle School, Concord Head Start, Concord Salvation Army, Friends of Forgotten Children