McGovern to Address Annual Meeting // NFCA News, February 2020

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Congressman McGovern to Address NFCA Annual Meeting

A longtime advocate for justice, food security, and an economy that works for everyone, Congressman McGovern recently joins the Congressional Cooperative Business Caucus.

The Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA) is honored to welcome Congressman Jim McGovern, U.S. Representative for the 2nd District of Massachusetts, as the keynote speaker for our 9th Annual Meeting, coming up on March 21. Mr. McGovern was first elected to Congress in 1996 and has a long history of working for justice, food security, and an economy that works for everyone. He currently serves as Chairman of the House Committee on Rules, a senior member of the Committee on Agriculture’s Subcommittee on Nutrition and Oversight, and recently joined the bipartisan Congressional Cooperative Business Caucus, initiated by the National Cooperative Business Association to provide greater visibility of co-operative economic impact and drive a more co-op-friendly legislative agenda. We’re looking forward to Congressman McGovern’s comments on the role and potential of our food co-ops in helping to build a more just, sustainable, and inclusive food system and economy.

The NFCA’s Annual Meeting brings together over 125 leaders representing our more than 35 Member Food Co-ops and Startups with 150,000 individual members across the Northeast, as well other co-ops and credit unions, co-op support and funding organizations, and other groups for a day-long gathering that includes speakers, workshops, and panels designed to support the success and growth of co-operative business. This year’s gathering includes a focus on policy, exploring how food co-ops and their members can be advocates for a more just, sustainable, and co-operative food system and economy.

Annual Meeting sessions will build on the New England Cooperative Policy Roundtable, taking place on March 20. This one-day dialog is designed to help advance the co-operative legislative agenda, bringing co-op leaders, co-operative advocates and policymakers together to identify the most significant strategic national, state and local policies, financing mechanisms and other systems and structures that support or impede co-operative development. The Policy roundtable is being organized by the National Cooperative Business Association and the Cooperative Development Foundation, and is co-hosted by the NFCA, the Cooperative Development Institute, Association of Vermont Credit Unions, Cooperative Credit Union Association, Credit Union League of Connecticut, Credit Union League of Maine, New England Farmers Union, and the Valley Alliance of Worker Co-ops.


Thanks to CoBank for their support of our Neighboring Food Co-ops


Neighboring Food Co-ops Expand Successful SNAP Incentive Programs 

As part of our vision for a healthy, just, and sustainable food system, Neighboring Food Co-ops partner with food security organizations to build healthy food access programs that empower people to work together to increase community self-reliance and resilience.

Local veggies at River Valley Co-op (MA)

The food co-ops of the Neighboring Food Co-op Association are owned by their communities—the people who shop there, work there, and sell their products to—supporting community self-reliance and resilience. Our food co-ops partner with local farmers and producers to grow their businesses, selling more than $93 million in local products annually. They are also responsive to local needs, working to make healthy, local, and organic food and member-ownership more accessible to low-income community members. Through the NFCA’s Healthy Food Access project, programs such as “Food for All” provide need-based discounts to co-op shoppers on limited incomes, while enabling more people to share ownership in their local grocery store.

The NFCA is partnering with both national and regional organizations to increase our impact on food security and the sustainability of local farms. In New Hampshire, for example, we work with Fair Food Network (FFN), a national nonprofit with a mission of growing community health and wealth through food. FFN was among the first organizations to introduce SNAP incentives to grocery stores in 2013 and has been working with NFCA member co-ops to bring their signature SNAP Incentive program, Double Up Food Bucks, to co-op shoppers throughout New Hampshire. NFCA member Littleton Food Co-op (NH) partnered with the NH Food Bank to pilot the Granite State Market Match — another SNAP Incentive program — with great success.

At Hanover Co-op Food Stores, with locations in Hanover and Lebanon, NH, and White River Junction, VT, the Double Up Food Bucks program “provides SNAP recipients with significant savings on the wide range of local fruits and vegetables from the Co-op’s long list of local farmers,” said General Manager, Ed Fox. Through the initiative, qualified customers receive a 50% discount on purchases made with electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards, helping them stretch their dollars where they buy most of their fresh, local produce.

“Through the Double Up Bucks program pilot run at Co-op Food Stores, over 460 Upper Valley Region households have extended their SNAP benefits on fresh fruits and vegetables,” said Emily Rogers, Member Education Manager at Co-op Food Stores. “Since beginning the program in June 2018, we’ve seen an additional $29,560 dollars spent on fresh fruits and vegetables. Double Up Food Bucks has given our Co-op a tool to help meet our goal and vision of a well-nourished community, cultivated through co-operation.”

In 2019 alone:

  • 463 community member households at Co-op Food Stores participated in the program, with the Double Up Incentive averaging $1,179 per month.
  • Local produce sold through SNAP grew by $18,353, an increase of 11% for local produce as a percentage of total produce sales, representing substantially increased impact for our region’s family farmers.

The Monadnock Food Co-op recently launched the Double Up Food Bucks program at its full-service grocery store in downtown Keene, New Hampshire.

“This win-win-win program allows people who receive SNAP benefits to stretch their dollars and purchase more fresh produce at the co-op,” said Michael Faber, Monadnock Food Co-op General Manager. “It means more healthy fruits and vegetables on people’s plates, more money to our local farmers, and more money recirculating in our local economy.”

In the first three months of the pilot, SNAP produce sales at the Monadnock Food Co-op increased by an average of $1,118, with an increase in total SNAP sales in produce of $3,355.

“Our shoppers using SNAP benefits were quick to embrace the launch of Double Up Food Bucks at our co-op. It was really exciting to launch this program during NH Eat Local Month,” said Jen Risley, the co-op’s Marketing Manager. “There’s so much fresh produce available from our local farms in the co-op today in August — from corn to lettuce to beets.”

The Littleton Food Co-op (NH) is part of the Granite State Market Match (Market Match) program, another program that helps to make healthy, locally grown fruits and vegetables more affordable for SNAP participants. The co-op was able to implement the program so successfully in part because of its close ties to their local farmers. In addition to offering Market Match in their store, Littleton Food Co-op also staffs the program’s booth at the Littleton Farmers’ Market every Sunday. The program has resulted in more customers using their SNAP benefits at both the co-op and the farmers market, helping to stretch their food dollars and support local farmers wherever they shop. The percentage of SNAP sales used on produce at the co-op is over 39%, almost triple the percentage before Market Match was established. Now, the Market Match program represents $2,300 in monthly sales at the Littleton Food Co-op.

Based on these successes in New Hampshire, the NFCA is seeking additional partners to expand SNAP Incentives to co-operative grocery stores in New England and New York, helping more people in our region purchase more fresh produce from local farmers all year round. The NFCA has extensive experience in developing innovative food security programs that empower people to meet their needs, together, while supporting local farmers and building community resilience. Our food co-ops bring together 150,000 members that support both affordability for shoppers and sustainability for producers. We have co-op staff that are experienced in operating effective Healthy Food Access programs, point of sales (POS) systems that help measure participation and communicate impact, and strong established relationships with local farmers, building sustainability through long-term partnerships, transparency, and a sales channel that compliments direct marketing by offering volume, lower delivery costs, in-store marketing, demos, and promotion, and a stable, year-round market for their products.

Our co-ops are eager to expand these efforts, as there would be substantial impact for local farmers and communities. We now have an opportunity through the most recent Farm Bill, as the new SNAP Incentives Program gives funding priority to projects that include coordination with co-operative grocers. “Co-ops are a wonderful fit for SNAP Incentives,” says Liz Alpern, program manager for Double Up Food Bucks Northeast. “The community orientation is built into the model of the stores, so shoppers adopt the program quickly, and really take advantage of the SNAP matching dollars.” As part of our vision for a healthy, just, and sustainable food system, the NFCA has been partnering with food security organizations to build Healthy Food Access programs that empower people to work together increase community self-reliance and resilience. Further collaboration on SNAP Incentive Programs presents an opportunity to dramatically increase our impact on these efforts across our region


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Farm to Freezer: We Heart Blueberries

Blueberries for Heart Health

February is Heart Healthy Month so what better way to enjoy the month than to eat more blueberries! The American Heart Association (AHA) sponsors American Heart Month each February to raise awareness about heart disease and how people can keep their heart healthy.

Blueberries can help! Blueberries are rich in vitamins K, C and B6, and manganese, and fiber. They contain antioxidants and one of the highest concentrations of anthocyanins which can reduce oxidative stress, thus lowering the risk of heart disease

We know that eating blueberries is good for you and we also know that blueberries are a tasty, versatile ingredient to incorporate into a healthy diet. Think of blueberry smoothies, blueberries with morning yogurt or cereal, blueberry crisp, blueberries in salads or Blåbärssoppa (blueberry soup). Regular consumption of blueberries is made easier with the availability of NFCA Frozen from your co-op!

Our co-ops have the ingredients needed to make simple, nutritious, creative, and family favorite meals. By including Northeast grown blueberries or vegetables during these winter months, you can keep family farmers thriving all year and have quality ingredients for your favorite meal. Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA) Blueberries, Organic Edamame, non-GMO Sweet Corn and Green Peas are available year-round and easy to use in your favorite recipe and available only at your food co-op!

For more Farm to Freezer information and recipes visit: www.nfca.coop/farmtofreezer.


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Thanks to Cooperative Fund of New England for their support of our Neighboring Food Co-ops


February’s Cave to Co-op Cheese Special

Lake’s Edge, Blue Ledge Farm, Salisbury, Vermont

Lake’s Edge is Blue Ledge Farm’s signature cheese: a dramatic ash-veined goat cheese which has been aged for three weeks and named after the stones found along Lake Champlain. Lake’s Edge is a beautiful cheese it’s centerline of ash contrasts with the chalk white of the paste. The texture is rich and creamy, denser towards the center and the flavor is the perfect balance of sweet, salty and tart.

Hannah Sessions and Greg Bernhardt, cheesemakers, first met in Italy while studying the art and culture of Europe. In 2000, the two began the work of transforming an old dairy farm in back into production with goats. The barn, which once housed seventy Holstein cows, would now be home to Alpine and La Mancha dairy goats. Today Hannah and Greg milk over one hundred goats and produce eleven types of cheese, from very fresh to semi-aged bloomy rind cheeses, to harder cheeses aged three months. True to their mission with a focus that is always on sustaining a high-quality, consistent product with lots of attention and gentle handling.

The 150 acres of Blue Ledge Farm consist of woods, hay land, pasture and wetland. In 2004 they financed the cheese room construction by selling development rights to the Vermont Land Trust, thereby ensuring that the land will always be open and never developed. In 2009, wetlands were identified as one of the farm’s great natural resources and so they agreed to conserve those fifty acres of wetland and return them to their natural state as a valuable part of the local ecosystem. The goats spend their spring, summer and fall days browsing in the woods, return to the barn for 4 pm milking and lounge around in a grass pasture as evening sets.

Hannah and Greg believe in a food system that is based on a cornerstone of respect for the land, the animals and the consumer as well as the local community. They both celebrate the opportunity to raise healthy, contented animals and make great cheese!

Cave to Co-op is a partnership between Provisions International and the Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA) to support artisanal cheese producers in our region and make their products more easily available to co-op shoppers. Each month, a delicious local cheese is featured at a great price.

For more information on Cave to Co-op, visit: www.nfca.coop/CaveToCo-op


Co-operative Policy at the National Farmers Union Convention 

New England Farmers Union is bringing a focus on co-operative policy to the 118th-anniversary convention of the National Farmers Union to be held March 1-3rd in Savannah, Georgia.

National Farmers Union’s 118th Convention will gather family farmers and Logo.NEFU.jpgranchers from across the country, industry professionals, and notable speakers in Savannah, Georgia this March 2020. The convention provides NFU members and attendees the opportunity to learn, collaborate, and grow through thoughtful discussions and breakout sessions.

New England Farmers Union is bringing a focus on co-operative policy to this year’s National Farmers Union Convention: joining New England Farmers Union President Roger Noonan will be Matt Barron, Allan Reetz, and Suzette Cobb-Snow.

Their farming and co-operative experience includes:

  • Matt Barron served on the founding board of New England Farmers Union and member of the Massachusetts Forest Alliance. He is a long time advocate on rural issues and renewable energy.
  • Allan Reetz is the director of PR and Government Relations for the Co-op Food Stores (Hanover, Lebanon NH and White River Junction, VT) and a veteran of several Farmers Union legislative adventures to Washington, DC and an expert advocate on healthy food access programs, as well as other co-operative issues.
  • Neighboring Food Co-op Association’s Sourcing Coordinator Suzette Cobb-Snow rounds out the cadre and brings her expertise as a Co-operative Food System Developer. Suzette was also selected to serve on the Conventions; Credentials, Elections and Rules Committee.

The New England Farmers Union Needs You!

If you care about where your food comes from and want to support the people who produce it, consider joining NEFU as a Friend of the Farmer for just $15. Your membership will help ensure that our region’s producers and consumers are heard by policy makers here at home and in Washington, DC. For more information, please visit www.newenglandfarmersunion.org.

 


Action Alert: Calling All Farmers–Take Action on Climate Change

New England Farmers Union calls upon all farmers to take action on climate change.

This year’s devastating losses from extreme weather have brought home the urgent need to address the climate crisis and its impacts on agriculture. Now is the time to join thousands of other farmers and ranchers across the nation to ask policymakers and federal administrators to help us meet the challenges of a changing climate.

Take action here and pass along to other farmers and ranchers in your network.

Your help is needed to support a Farmer Letter on Climate Change Solutions in Agriculture developed through effort by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalitions (NCAC). The statement will be made public and sent to Congressional and USDA leaders. The letter was developed collaboratively through NSAC’s Climate Committee working alongside member organizations including the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, FarmAid, California Climate Action Network and many others.

Please consider signing the letter to voice your concern about climate change impacts on agriculture and to call for solutions that invest in our rural agricultural communities. Link to the letter here

Please pass this along and share with other farmers and ranchers.

We have deep concerns about climate change impacts on agriculture and we cannot afford to wait. Action is needed now to address our changing climate. Agriculture can and must be part of the solution.


Our Neighborhood Co-op Calendar

Join your Neighboring Food Co-ops in June in Sioux Falls, SD, for CCMA 2020 as we embrace our diverse identities and grow the food co-op movement!


For More Co-op Events, Visit http://nfca.coop/calendar

MARCH 2020

Saturday, March 7

NOFA CT Winter Conference

https://organiconn.squarespace.com/

 

Friday, March 20

New England Cooperative Policy Roundtable (Co-Hosted by NFCA)

Greenfield Community College, Greenfield, MA

https://ncbaclusa.coop/blog/event/roundtable-new-england/

 

Saturday, March 21

9th Annual Meeting of the Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA)

Join us for full day of presentations, workshops, and networking for NFCA member food co-op board members & staff.

MAY 2020

Saturday, May 16

NFCA Food Co-op Startup Gathering

Join us for full day of training and networking for NFCA member food co-op startups.

 

JUNE 2020

June 4-6

CCMA for Food Co-ops Conference

https://ccma.coop

 

JULY 2020

July 4

International Co-ops Day

https://www.un.org/en/events/cooperativesday/

 

AUGUST 2020

August 13-15

Federation of Southern Co-operatives 52nd Annual Meeting

https://www.federation.coop/events

OCTOBER 2020

October 7-9

NCBA CLUSA Co-op Impact Conference

https://ncbaclusa.coop/2020-co-op-impact-conference/

 

Saturday, October 17

Columinate Co-op Cafe (Co-Hosted by NFCA)

https://columinate.coop/upcoming_events/co-op-cafe-new-england/


The Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA) is a co-operative federation of 35 food co-ops and startup initiatives across New England, working together toward a shared vision of a thriving co-operative economy, rooted in a healthy, just, and sustainable food system and a vibrant community of  co-operative enterprise.