Somerville, Mass., is an urban city lauded by health advocates and First Lady Michelle Obama for its near-decade-long investment in programs that fight childhood obesity and encourage healthy living. Need to Know spent time in Somerville talking to city leaders and residents, as well as the folks who brought the anti-obesity campaign Shape Up Somerville to town, to find out what keeps this city in great shape.
Part of the city’s success comes from the campaign’s philosophy that healthy options should be the easier ones for residents to choose. One of Shape Up Somerville’s healthy options for the city is bringing Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) to East Somerville, an area with limited options for fresh produce. CSA enables residents to get local produce delivered weekly to their neighborhoods when they purchase “shares” of vegetables from a regional farmer. More than 12,000 CSAs exist countrywide according to the Department of Agriculture’s latest census of U.S. farms. “CSAs have come to the forefront in the past five years,” said a spokesperson from the USDA. “People didn’t really know about them 10 years ago.”
Shape Up Somerville’s CSA is run a little differently than most. To cater to Somerville’s diverse population, where 52 languages are spoken, there are three vegetable share options: traditional New England, Brazilian and Central American. Most CSAs requires payment upfront for a whole season, but because of the high number of East Somerville residents with lower incomes, Shape Up Somerville subsidizes costs to farmers so that residents have the option to pay in installments or volunteer at the distribution table for a couple of hours each week for their CSA membership.
In this short “First Look” excerpt, resident Jadilma De Souza, who moved to Somerville 15 years ago from Brazil, talks about how volunteering at East Somerville’s CSA has made family life a little more fruitful.