Community Supported By Agriculture
Older adults are often overlooked when it comes to food insecurity.
In the United States, 1 in every 14 seniors face hunger – and as the cost of food continues to skyrocket, the problem is only worsening for those living on a modest fixed income.
To address the growing need, Boulder County Farmers Market has partnered with Nourish Colorado and the Colorado Nutrition Incentive Program (CNIP) to bring farm-fresh foods to older adults in our community who may not otherwise be able to access hunger-relief programs due to ongoing stigma, lack of transportation, or barriers with technology. Little did we know when we began to pilot this program earlier this year that not only would it help get more food on the table for our older neighbors, but that it would also help transform participant’s relationship with food and, most importantly, each other.
Bringing work home isn’t always a bad thing
Connie LeClerc has always been passionate about social justice. Her large influence in her community is beyond the scale of her petite form, but when it comes to Connie, it’s best to expect the unexpected. After a long career as a paraeducator with Boulder Valley School District, she “retired” in 2018 and began working on Isabelle Farm in Lafayette. That same year, she attended the Scarcity in Abundance: Hunger in America Food Conference in Washington D.C. with her church and met with leaders from Food Tank and Civil Eats who helped ignite her passion for fighting food insecurity. After spending a few years working on local farms, Connie joined the Boulder County Farmers Markets team to support our food hub work: sorting produce for our WIC CSA, packing orders for our online customers, and helping to close out our Saturday markets in Longmont. It makes sense, then, that when we began talking about expanding our food access programming for older adults, a lightbulb went off in Connie’s head – and thus a new program was born.
Connie is a resident of Affinity at Lafayette, an ages 55+ living community for active adults off of Baseline Road. “Quite a few of our members are financially stressed and cutting food out of their budgets to make ends meet,” said Connie. Knowing there was a need, she banded together with her across the hallway neighbor, Helen Abel, to get to work. They printed discreet flyers, talked with members, and came up with a process that met the needs of their neighbors. Many residents were nervous that participating in the program would hurt other benefits they may receive, like Medicare or Social Security – a common misconception that prevents many people from getting the help they need. Others enthusiastically agreed to join the program, and asked how they could help make it happen. They began with a goal of enrolling 16 units, and less than two months later have 22 units participating in the program.
Growing as they go
With the program up and running, they began to notice that there were still some bumps in the road to making the program as successful as it could be. While many members have spent their lives cooking for themselves and their families, not everyone knows what to do with, say, radicchio or bok choy. As Connie collects feedback every week to report back, she also works to find ways to improve the experience of participating residents so that they get the most value out of it that they can. She works with staff at Affinity to share recipes that feature some of the more obscure produce items, and handed out copies of the Nourish Colorado cookbook to help spark inspiration in the kitchen. If someone can’t use a produce item, they came up with an anonymous food-sharing system to allow residents to discreetly share their food with others who can use it. “It really has started a conversation about foods people have encountered through their lifetime travels,” shared Connie, noting that some residents have made plans to cook together so that they can learn from each other and share a meal.
Learn more about our food access programs
The Older Adult CSA at Affinity is just one of the food access programs led by Boulder County Farmers Markets. Our 501c4 nonprofit also delivers to older adults in Lafayette, Longmont, and Lyons, distributes food from local farms for families participating in WIC, and packs produce bags for early childhood centers through FTECE. By supporting Boulder County Farmers Markets at our markets in Boulder and Longmont or by shopping online, you’re helping us get more farm-fresh food to our neighbors who otherwise wouldn’t be able to enjoy it. Learn more about our work here.