The Go-Fresh Emergency Produce distribution program, which began as a response to the pandemic in April, ended in October after distributing over 5,000 boxes of fresh produce in 27 weeks. Our work started with five partner sites in April of this year, growing to engage 15 community partners from senior housing, health care and community based organizations. By the end of the 27 week project, there were 16 site locations serving older adults and families in Springfield.
The program was initially designed to provide fresh produce to older adults, who are at high risk for COVID-19. The program worked built on the Go Fresh Mobile Market’s existing site partners serving older adults. The site partners promoted the free produce distribution program to the residents, consumers, and older adult clients who could benefit from a free produce box twice a month. Produce purchasing, sorting, and redistribution were coordinated by Wellspring Harvest, who stepped in to manage this new collaboration.
The program's growth is a clear testament to the critical need for emergency food distribution for older adults and families during COVID and residents' desire to have fresh produce. Initially funding came from committed Go Fresh funders such as Beveridge Foundation, and Sponsors including Trinity Health of New England/Mercy Medical Center, Baystate Health, Health New England, Davis Foundation, BMC Healthnet, and Beacon Communities which allowed the pivot from the Go Fresh’s planned mobile farmer’s market. A focus on older adults was made possible by the Tufts Health Plan Foundation which funds the Live Well Springfield Age Friendly initiative. Trinity Health of New England’s Transforming Communities Initiative funded outreach to families. As the Go Fresh Advisory Committee recognized the emerging need to sustain this effort, additional funding was secured through the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts COVID-19 Response Fund. With these additional resources, the program effort was immediately doubled from serving 300 to 600 residents monthly.
Through the many helping hands of the 15 site coordinators, Mass Senior Action volunteers, and distribution partner Wellspring Harvest, we collectively distributed 300 social isolation care packages, 900 PPE supplies, and 627 holiday pumpkins. Out of the 5,472 boxes distributed in the 27-weeks, 37% of them went to older adults.
This project thrives on partnerships! One example is how Mass Senior Action coordinated with Alden Baptist Church to give out produce boxes. Each week, church volunteers set up a tent and tables to allow for a socially distanced way for seniors to pick up their produce. This exemplifies how partners helping partners was and is critical to surviving/thriving during the pandemic and is a cornerstone of the work of Live Well Springfield.
We surveyed residents in the two weeks of distribution and to date have received 88 surveys which we are in the process of compiling and analyzing. One community resident shared the feeling of gratitude to have the boxes each week, “These boxes are truly a blessing and allow me to get creative with my meal planning.” Another resident highlighted the value each box provided their family with this comment, “I really appreciate the Go Fresh boxes. The boxes are very helpful for my family; the onions and peppers and lettuce save me a decent $ amount per week.”
We are grateful to the helping hands of the following Go Fresh funders and sponsors: Community Foundation of Western MA COVID-19 Response Fund, Tufts Health Plan Foundation, Beveridge Family Foundation, Trinity Health of New England/Mercy Medical Center, Baystate Health, Health New England, Boston Medical Center Healthnet, Beacon Communities, and the Davis Foundation. In the midst of the pandemic, our sponsors supported us in redirecting resources to address the immediate needs of food insecurity for Springfield residents.
The Go-Fresh Advisory Committee and the LWS Age-Friendly Coalition is sincerely grateful to the many helping hands listed below that enable us to serve the community at a time of a great need for emergency food and even greater need for unity and community support: Senior focused housing, centers and community group (Raymond Jordan Senior Center, Mass Senior Action, Independence House, Riverview Senior Center, Colonial Estates and Linden Towers), community-based organizations (Square One, Arise for Social Justice and Mosque 13) and health related programs (Baystate Health Geriatrics Program, Springfield Healthy Homes Asthma Program, Caring Health Center, Trinity/Mercy Care Alliance- BMC Healthnet ACO, and Partners in Health.)
Even though the Go-Fresh project ended this October, we know the need for fresh produce still exists for Springfield residents. To stay connected to the fresh produce sites in the area, visit CISA’s list of emergency food distribution sites and farmer's markets in your area.