Food Access

We believe that organic food can be grown anywhere, and that doing so can allow all populations to access healthy food.

Our Food Access program primarily serves communities of color who are struggling with structural racism, health disparities, few or poorly functioning supermarkets and poverty. We work to share organic growing education, support community gardens and partner with other local organizations to increase food access in urban areas.

Through on the ground programming, NOFA/Mass helps mitigate food insecurity in Springfield Massachusetts and beyond.

Our Local Programs

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 (Springfield, MA)
Organic gardening and cooking classes

Since 2018, we have been working with Home City Housing’s Carbon Gardening Youth Leader Program. Home City Housing is a group 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. Annually, the Tapley Court Community Garden grows over 1500 lbs. of fresh food, which is distributed to the families of Tapley Court Apartments and Liberty Apartments.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the youth leaders led trainings on organic growing that were recorded and shared with 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.   

The Youth Organic Gardening and Cooking Program continues to expand the garden and grow ingredients for the processing and sale of locally made salsa.

The videos that were created in 2020 can be found here. Additional cooking and nutrition videos from the NOFA/Mass Food Access program can be found here.

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

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)

Since 2020, NOFA/Mass has collaborated with Open Pantry Social Services, The Springfield City Health Department and ROCA on 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 shared with 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. Annually, about 750 lbs. of food is grown for the Open Pantry emergency food pantry and the community at large.

In 2021, Arise for Social Justice joined the collaboration and 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. Small classes are conducted onsite that focus on basic gardening techniques, soil health, soil testing, healthy snack preparation (featuring food from the garden) and food preservation techniques (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 (Springfield, MA)
In person and online garden classes

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 covers the cost of soil testing kits that are 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.

Recent Food Access Stories

  • An urban garden with several people working in it.

NOFA/Mass Food Access Program– 2021 in Review

The Home City Housing Youth Agricultural Program and Open Pantry Garden By Anna Gilbert-Muhammad, NOFA/Mass Food Access Director Anna Gilbert-Muhammad (center) gives planting instructions to youth participants in the Tapley Court Garden, Springfield, [...]