Neighborhood Connections to Health is Sourcing Locally to Serve Freehold Residents
Under the relentless summer sun, the Neighborhood Connections to Health (NCTH) coalition partners and volunteers held the last weekly NCTH Pop-Up Produce Distribution on July 31, 2020. Surely, the need for fresh produce among community members would not cease, and the coalition considered how to advance its work. Reaching deeper for solutions to fresh food insecurity, NCTH looked to the DowntownFreehold.com Farmers’ Market as an avenue to serve those in need and support local businesses.
With support from the partners and volunteers, NCTH held its first Farmers’ Market Voucher Program from August 7 – October 9, 2020 at the DowntownFreehold.com Farmers’ Market. NCTH served more than 700 Freehold-area residents in need by providing locally grown produce every Friday. Participants were given vouchers, redeemable as cash, to purchase fruits and vegetables from on-site vendors. This program gave people the power of choice, and a larger window of time to utilize the vouchers. It also provided NCTH with a new platform to build connections with the community, including local farms. Vendors and participating shoppers alike expressed their gratitude for the program. The farmers said that amid the added challenges to operating their farms in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, the voucher program provided an incredible opportunity for business. As the program ended, a participant who chose to remain anonymous, shared her story with NCTH:
“My family and I moved to New Jersey in 1997. Since then, many good things and bad things have happened. My oldest son passed away in 2004 at the age of 27, and my husband passed away 13 months later. These deaths took a toll that was beyond words. My younger son married a beautiful girl in 2006 and they brought two beautiful children into the world. They are my life! I also became disabled in 2010. So those are the good and bad events in my personal life.
I found out about the Farmers’ Market Voucher Program in late August 2020 through the Samaritan Center. The weekly program enabled me to purchase fresh veggies and fruit for my family. I try to give my grandchildren healthy snacks of fresh fruit daily.
I love to cook using fresh veggies. We enjoy green zucchini, Jersey tomatoes, cucumbers, Italian frying peppers, red peppers, corn, lemon, and even the collard greens we received through your wonderful program. Your program provided these through October 9, 2020. This was definitely a very good thing!
The fresh fruit consisted of bananas, watermelon, apples, plums, and the best red grapes we have had all year. Your program provided this for us, for which I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I hope you can continue to provide this great program in 2021.
– Freehold-area Resident, 2020
The desire to eat fresh, nutritious foods knows no boundaries; one’s income, age, or culture doesn’t matter, because eating nutritiously is important to everyone. This is why NCTH continuously strives to level the playing field of access to fresh fruits and vegetables. After all, this builds a foundation for improving health and well-being in our community.