Monadnock Children’s Food Access Alliance to Develop Food Access Plan

New Hampshire Children’s Health Foundation awarded the County of Cheshire a $20,000 grant to fiscal sponsor a project with Monadnock Farm and Community Coalition (MFCC) and Healthy Monadnock, who will form the Monadnock Children’s Food Access Alliance. The Alliance will regularly assemble during 2021 to work towards a long term goal to improve the overall health of children in the Monadnock region.

The Alliance’s key objective is to identify opportunities for children and families to access affordable healthy food and increase participation in programs. This will be accomplished by conducting a comprehensive analysis of assets and gaps in present children’s food security programs, coordinating existing services and programs to increase program efficiencies, convening stakeholders (e.g., focus groups, listening sessions) to examine data and information, co-designing a plan with community members to fill identified gaps in programs and services, and enabling community members to access existing programs. Success of this project will mean that children in the Monadnock region have excellent health and easy access to nutritious food, regardless of their economic or family status.

The intent of this project is to help leaders design effective programs. Presently, food security and access programs in the Monadnock region are underused and little data exists as to why that is or if vulnerable people know about resources and assistance available. Numerous anecdotes in the region from school professionals and medical providers reference families cutting back or going into debt to feed their kids. Yet programs like SNAP, Granite State Market Match, and EBT benefits are underutilized. The region’s food access providers and public health officials will be better positioned to help these people if they had more information about the people who need services and their barriers to accessing those services.

MFCC is the ideal organization to lead efforts to closely examine the local food system because it works with about 140 members to cultivate community action, connect people to resources, and foster relationships that benefit local farmers and public health. According to Roe-Ann Tasoulas, MFCC director, “Three of the Coalition’s goals tie directly into this effort: increase food production and consumption in the region, and provide resources and encourage advocacy for an equitable food system. Our members are passionate about healthy food and making it available to all Monadnock residents.”

Healthy Monadnock and Cheshire Medical Center’s Center for Population Health will support the Coalition’s efforts and provide technical assistance, network connections, and use of the Healthy Monadnock brand. It provides education and advocacy, oversight for public health projects, and supports the implementation of the Community Health Improvement Plan. Cheshire County government will provide fiscal sponsorship, and will manage the contractual aspect of the grant award and its subcontracts.

“Being a part of bring this project to fruition is what our work is all about,” says Tricia Zahn, Center for Population Health and MFCC board member. “It is energizing to know so many people in the Monadnock Region are passionate about food access improvements and to have our project ideas validated by an external competitive funder is no small feat.”

Funding for this project was made possible by the New Hampshire Children’s Health Foundation through a competitive application program for reducing food insecurity in children and families by increasing access to affordable healthy food.

The Alliance seeks stakeholder participation at their meetings and other various stages of the planning project. To sign up or for more information, contact Roe-Ann Tasoulas, MFCC Director at coordinator@mfccoalition.org or 802.271.4191

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