RELEASE: Mayor Rawlings-Blake Launches Homegrown Baltimore Employee Wellness CSA Farmshare

City of Baltimore

Stephanie Rawlings-Blake

City of Baltimore

250 City Hall • Baltimore, Maryland 21202 • 410-396-3835 • Fax: 410-576-9425

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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Caron A. Brace

Mayor Rawlings-Blake Launches Homegrown Baltimore Employee Wellness CSA Farmshare

Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) Initiative Makes Fresh, Local Produce Available to City Employees

BALTIMORE, Md. (March 20, 2014)—Today, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake announced the launch of the Homegrown Baltimore Employee Wellness CSA Farmshare, a community-supported agriculture (CSA) farmshare for Baltimore City employees. The program will make fresh, local produce available to City employees, delivered directly to participating City offices. With the support of the City’s labor unions, Baltimore is the first city in the country to offer an incentivized farmshare wellness program to employees on a large-scale basis.

CSA programs, or farmshares, function through subscriber costs. Members of the program support local agriculture by paying a subscription fee at the beginning of the growing season. Each week throughout the season, members receive a share of fresh produce from participating farms.

“The Homegrown Baltimore CSA is an innovative way to get Baltimore City employees to participate in community-supported agriculture, especially at a time when we are placing a heavy emphasis on promoting employee health,” said Mayor Rawlings-Blake.

This week, the Board of Estimates approved a request by the Managerial and Professional Society of Baltimore, Inc. (MAPS) to include CSA programs in its existing health reimbursement plan. MAPS employees can now obtain reimbursement for up to $250 of the cost of a CSA share. MAPS is the first of the City’s labor unions to incentivize participation in a farmshare program. Incentives such as these are an effective strategy to increase employee involvement in CSAs, approximately doubling participation rates, according to research.

“The Homegrown Baltimore Employee Wellness CSA Farmshare is a policy and programmatic solution that advances the City’s Food Policy Taskforce recommendation to promote and expand community supported agriculture, as well as the newly released Homegrown Baltimore Agriculture Plan: Grow Local, Buy Local, Eat Local.” said Food Policy Director Holly Freishtat. “This innovative program creates a synergistic relationship that supports local farms and health.”

“We are excited to expand this wellness benefit for our employees, and are proud to set an example for union wellness efforts in the City of Baltimore and across the country,” said MAPS President Anthony Polsinelli.

The Homegrown Baltimore Employee Wellness Farmshare builds upon Change to Grow, the mayor’s ten-year financial plan by continuing to expand the City’s wellness and disease management initiatives, and by improving the health of Baltimore City employees through increased fruit and vegetable consumption.

One Straw Farm, which already delivers farmshares to Baltimore City and can provide up to 2,000 shares for 2014, will act as the anchor farm for the first year. Five Seeds Farm will supply shares for two sites (22 CSA shares). Any farm can participate in the Homegrown Baltimore Employee Wellness CSA Farmshare as long as it meets the specified qualifications. The program aims to expand to many farms—especially those that are based in Baltimore City—in the coming years.

The Homegrown Baltimore Employee Wellness CSA Farmshare program will run for 24 weeks, from June to November, and will deliver directly to any worksite that signs up for at least 10 shares. Employees can sign up for a full share, which provides enough produce each week for a family of four, or split a share with a coworker. Each week, participating employees will receive approximately eight types of produce.

Each site will have a site coordinator to help register employees and coordinate drop-off day logistics. Site coordinators will receive a free produce box each week. Employees who wish to participate must sign up and pay for the farmshare directly with the farmer, prior to the first worksite delivery.

To learn more about how to join the Homegrown Baltimore Employee Wellness CSA Farmshare program, click here.

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