Bringing life to a 'food desert'

By Erika Mahoney

Bringing life to a 'food desert'

June 28, 2013 Updated Jun 28, 2013 at 11:51 PM EDT

Binghamton, NY (WBNG Binghamton) A new initiative is working to connect farmers with Binghamton residents and bring life to what some consider a local food desert.

The Binghamton Farm Share Around the Corner program distributed its first delivery to Binghamton's north side Friday.

Boxes and bags full of leafy greens had customers already excited to make dinner.

"I think it's cool, instead of just going to the store and getting the stuff that you need," Keeyan Smith said.

The goal of the pilot program is to increase access to healthy, fresh and affordable food.

"We've heard a lot about the north side being a food desert and access being an issue," said Binghamton Farm Share Coordinator Rebecca Heller-Steinberg. "They've been trying to get a supermarket for a long time, and that's still something that's being worked on. There isn't one yet, so this is a way to bring more food access to this neighborhood."

Produce will be delivered directly to Theodore Roosevelt Elementary, Carlisle Apartments and Tabernacle United Methodist Church on Fridays. On Wednesdays, the produce is delivered to Mothers and Babies Perinatal Network.

The boxes can be picked up from late afternoon to early evening.

Those who sign up for the program make a season-long commitment. Each week they will pick up their share, and each week the produce is different.

"You won't know exactly what you're going to get until just a little bit before you get it," Heller-Steinberg said. "But it's always going to be the best and freshest of what the farmer has to offer for the season."

The boxes come straight from the participating farms, including Early Morning Farm and the Binghamton Urban Farm.

Directors are trying to make the project as convenient as possible, accepting several different forms of payments and SNAP benefits.

"We have some matching funds," Heller-Steinberg said. "So for folks who are city of Binghamton residents who pay with EBT or food stamps, they actually get matching funds so they end up paying only half price for the shares."

Organizers say the program is a win-win, for customers and farmers.

"You don't have to go to a grocery store," said Sean Cummings, with Binghamton Urban Farm. "You can kind of meet the people who are working on the project, meet the farmers, meet the other people that are doing the program together. It's really just as much about building community as about building a stronger food system."

The program is set to last through October.

It's not too late to sign up.

Call (607) 238-3522 for more information.