-Written by Colleen Donlan ‘18
This summer I worked with AdkAction in Keeseville, NY in the Adirondacks. AdkAction has been creating projects that address unmet needs, promote vibrant communities, and preserve the character of the Adirondacks since 2011. They serve seasonal and year-round residents of the Adirondack Park and work in diverse project areas such as: community revitalization, food access, environmental stewardship, arts and culture, and broadband internet access. My primary focus was on “The Farmacy” which began in 2017 and is a partnership between the Keeseville Pharmacy and AdkAction designed to make healthy food, sourced from local and organic farms whenever possible, physically and economically accessible to all Keeseville residents within the Pharmacy space. We partner with six local farms and a food hub to make high-quality produce, dairy, meat, eggs, and value-added products available in the Farmacy. Together with the Keeseville Pharmacy, we are trying to help vulnerable populations gain access to affordable, locally-produced food.
When the only grocery store in Keeseville closed down in 2013, residents had to choose between traveling to other areas for groceries or shopping for processed foods at convenience and dollar stores. At the Farmacy, we aim to increase access to healthy products for all consumers, while supporting our local farmers. The Farmacy accepts SNAP/ EBT benefits and is in the application process for WIC checks. We aim to help SNAP/WIC recipients access higher quality food with their benefits and to help farmers access this larger under-tapped market. But one of the challenges is supporting the local farmers, who must charge higher prices, while making the food accessible to low-income consumers. Additionally, there is a lack of education around what the Farmacy offers and the health benefits of local, fresh, and healthy foods.
We address the lack of access to local food and education by offering incentives and educational opportunities. My goal this summer has been to expand the Farmacy project, increasing education and outreach efforts. To increase awareness and education around using local foods, the Farmacy will be hosting three cooking classes this fall with a local chef. The classes will use products from the Farmacy to teach consumers how to best use the vegetables, meats, and cheeses. At these cooking classes, which are open to all SNAP participants, each person will receive $10 of Farm Fresh Cash from the Clinton County Health Department that they can use at participating retail locations, including to Farmacy, to buy fruits and vegetables. Additionally, we are applying for grants to offer incentives for fresh, healthy produce for consumers picking up their prescriptions at the Pharmacy. These outreach efforts will help us combat the cultural, socioeconomic, and physical barriers to food access.
As a political science major with a minor in environmental studies and an interest in food justice, my experience with AdkAction has combined my academic interests with my interest in community-based food projects. After Upstate Institute, I plan on going back to my home community of Portland, Maine to work with my county’s food security council. My experience in the Adirondacks has shown me how an innovative food project can be successful in a rural area with the support of a close-knit, connected community. Through my work this summer, I’ve been able to work in all parts of the Farmacy project, from communicating with local farms to applying for grant opportunities. I hope to take those lessons back to the projects that the council is doing, working with both farmers and low-income consumers to make healthy food more accessible.