Food Access

We believe that organic growing can take place everywhere and assist all populations in accessing healthy food. Our Food Access program strives to assist communities of color struggling with structural racism; health disparities, few or poorly functioning supermarkets, and poverty. Together we work to grow healthy food through organic growing education, support for community gardens and partnering with local organizations to use urban gardening to increase food access.

NOFA/Mass, through on the ground programming in Springfield and other locations, has been able to assist in curbing aspects of food insecurity.

Anna teaching

Anna Gilbert-Muhammad, Equity Director and Food Access Program Coordinator for NOFA/Mass speaks to Youth Leaders in the Tapley Garden in Springfield, MA on July 30, 2020. The topics for the day were cover crops and daikon radishes. (photo by Betty Jenewin)

Home City Housing Youth Leader Program; organic gardening and cooking classes (Springfield, MA)

2021 marks the fourth year of our work with Home City Housing’s Carbon Gardening Youth Leader Program.  Home City Housing is a grouping of low-income housing units nestled in Springfield’s Mason Square Neighborhoods including the following housing developments: Tapley Court Apartments, Liberty Street Apartments and Twigs Scattered Sites. This area has no supermarkets and could be labeled a food desert.

NOFA/Mass has partnered with Home City Housing to work with local youth ages 14 to 21 to manage their community garden, monitor soil health, teach organic gardening techniques, and promote cooking and food preservation. Between 2019 and 2020, the Tapley Court Community Garden has grown over 1500 lbs. of fresh food, which was given to the families of Tapley Court Apartments and Liberty Apartments. During the COVID pandemic, the youth leaders led trainings on organic growing that were filmed and distributed to families of the housing units.  The youth leaders also created training videos for canning garden salsa and gave a demonstration to a group of Black and Brown women at Woven Roots Farm and Educational Center with co-founder, farmer, and Director of Education & Community Engagement, Jen Salinetti.   

In 2021, the Youth Organic Gardening and Cooking Program will expand the garden to grow for the canning and sale of salsa. 

The videos that were created in 2020 can be found here.

Youth leaders weed and water at the Tapley Garden in Springfield, MA on July 16, 2020, under the direction of Anna Gilbert-Muhammad, Equity Director and Food Access Program Coordinator for NOFA Mass. (photo by Betty Jenewin)

Open Pantry Community Garden; soil health, food production and processing (Springfield, MA)

In 2020, NOFA/Mass entered into a collaboration with Open Pantry Social Services, The Springfield City Health Department and ROCA to establish a community garden.  The garden serves as a source of healthy produce for the community on School and State Streets in Springfield, Massachusetts.  Food produced in the garden is given to the local community free of charge. Recently, youth from ROCA have built 5 additional garden beds to support the existing 5 beds in the community garden.  In 2020, 750 lbs. of food was grown for the Open Pantry emergency food pantry and the community at large.

In 2021, Arise for Social Justice joins the collaboration and will set up a smaller companion garden that will supplement the larger garden’s yield with fresh food for the emergency food pantries at both Open Pantry and Arise.  This season, small classes will be conducted onsite that will focus on basic gardening techniques, soil health, soil testing, healthy snack preparation (featuring food from the garden) and food preservation such as canning, freezing and dehydrating.

Anna Gilbert-Muhammad, Equity Director and Food Access Program Coordinator for NOFA/Mass holds a large zucchini just harvested, as she is surrounded by the youth and adults working in the Tapley Garden in Springfield, MA on July 30, 2020. (photo by Betty Jenewin)

Mason Square Community Garden; virtual and live garden classes (Springfield, MA)

As part of a small grant award from the UMASS Library system, NOFA/Mass is currently working with the Library’s Community Garden and local gardeners.  The grant covered soil testing kits that will be given out to community members and community gardeners.   Educational gardening and soil health classes are held in small groups online and in person once a month for the 2021 growing season.

Recent Food Access Stories

Introduction to the NOFA/Mass Bioremediation Project

Healing the Soil ~ Healing the Community ~ Feeding the Community by Anna Gilbert-Muhammad, NOFA/Mass Food Access Coordinator Growing food in urban areas like Boston, Newark or Springfield where soils are depleted and contaminated with lead and/or other heavy metals can be [...]