FLORENCE — Florence Bank announced it has made a $50,000 sponsorship pledge to Grow Food Northampton to help provide healthy, local food to area residents who are food-insecure at a time when federal food benefits are scaling back to pre-pandemic levels.
Helen Kahn, manager of the Grow Food Northampton Tuesday and winter farmers markets, said the sponsorship will help residents who receive federally sponsored food support through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) double their purchases of local food through Grow Food’s SNAP Match program year-round.
The summer and winter farmers markets are an important source of locally grown, healthy food for low-income families. When SNAP customers purchase tokens at the market, Grow Food Northampton provides an extra $10 of tokens free through SNAP Match. Because these tokens can be spent only at the markets, the program directly benefits the farmers as well.
The outdoor Tuesday markets are held every Tuesday behind Thornes Marketplace from 1:30 to 6:30 p.m. from April 18 to Nov. 7. From November through March, the market moves inside to the Northampton Senior Center and is held biweekly.
Florence Bank’s gift, to be offered in increments of $10,000 per year for five years, comes at a time when additional federal support for SNAP provided during the pandemic has been halted, and it also allows Grow Food Northampton to expand its SNAP Match program to serve more families who qualify.
“Many families relied on those extra funds, and even though the pandemic is over, food insecurity continues,” Kahn said. “We expect and hope that the number of people in our community on SNAP who come to our farmers markets to access local food will increase. Local business sponsorships are critical for allowing Grow Food Northampton to meet the increasing demands on the SNAP Match program at our farmers markets.”
Matt Garrity, president and CEO of Florence Bank, added that “we have a mission to serve the community, and we are pleased to be able to support Grow Food Northampton and those it serves at a time when the need is great. We are proud to help fund a program that provides healthy and nutritious food options for folks in need.”
SNAP Match serves a broad spectrum of community residents. “From 20-somethings to seniors, individuals and families of all ethnicities within our community are accessing SNAP Match at our markets,” Kahn said.
She added that it’s important for Grow Food Northampton to keep growing the SNAP Match program because 15% of the population of Northampton receives SNAP benefits, but not everyone knows about the program or how to access it.
In March 2023, 12,640 households in Hampshire County were eligible. Last year, though, only 912 households took advantage of the program, up from 650 households in 2021.
In 2019, SNAP Match was funded with $14,800 raised from sponsorships. Last year, $45,000 was raised and assisted people at both the Tuesday and winter markets. Through local business sponsorships, Grow Food Northampton is prepared to provide $65,000 in SNAP Match during this year’s market seasons.
“We have so much gratitude for Florence Bank,” Kahn said. “Their gift represents a huge percentage of the funds we’re providing to the community. Florence Bank is a great community neighbor.”