Over 85 people from around the state attended an online meeting sponsored by the Penn State Extension Office on Tuesday to learn about the many ways Adams County food-related organizations collaborated in 2020 to provide food resources to local residents during the pandemic.
The activities in the county serve as a model for many others around the state. “So many counties across the state do not have anything like this,” said Penn State Senior Extension Educator, Lynn James.
Adams County Farmers Market Program Manager Reza Djalal said market attendance had grown by 42 percent in 2020 and that about 1,000 low-income shoppers had found fresh food through one or more of its programs.
Djalal said he had received “overwhelmingly positive feedback” about the programs and that vendors who sold food found the programs to be very beneficial. “This model works especially well, especially in the pandemic.”
Djalal said his research showed “strong evidence” that fruit and vegetable incentive programs increase affordability, access, and increased consumption of fruits and vegetables, and can significantly increase the sales and the use of food assistance at farmers markets.
Amy Dailey, Associate Professor of Food Science at Gettysburg College spoke of the county’s needs, saying her research had shown many people are experiencing mental health issues and feelings of isolation. Dailey also reported that people talked about strain on their relationships.
While they expressed gratitude for more time together, and reported eating more often at home, they also spoke of eating more than they should have.
Kasthy Gaskin, Healthy Adams County executive director, shared a story about how the “support circles” food program had started in 2007 in the basement of an old school. The goal was to connect people and improve food accessibility, she said.
Gaskin said the programs expanded in 2009 as even more residents needed to find food in the midst of job losses. “We were able to respond quickly,” said Gaskin.
Healthy Adams County provides access to healthy foods for low-wage earners and support for local growers, and also publishes a local food guide. Each of the many organizations connected to the project has its own goals but each also works together with the others.
Jay Eury, Penn State Extension Market development and Food Systems, said he was working to make the data in the local resources guide more accessible through GIS mapping and open sharing on the PSU website.
“There are a lot of opportunities for more engagement,” said Eury.
“That is now people in Adams County are – they really want to help.” Yeimi Gagliardi
Wellspan Health Latino Health Educator Yeimi Gagliardi said many members of the county’s Latinx community used the food programs and spoke about the difficulties getting information about programs to them. “Sometimes it takes a different way of delivering information,” said Gagliardi. “Learning also happens with our interactions with others and this has to happen in a place where people feel safe.”
Gagliardi said many families have difficulties completing paperwork, and lack of credit cards to pay for services caused problems. She thanked the many volunteers who help people connect with food programs.
James said the mission of the PSU Extension Service is to deliver knowledge and research to the community in areas including agriculture and public safety.