GLCF James Loubna CSA Delivery

Bringing Fresh Produce to Homeless Families & Individuals in Greater Lowell

Lowell, MA – Two local nonprofits – Community Teamwork Inc. and Mill City Grows – have teamed up to bring fresh produce to families and individuals experiencing homelessness. The Greater Lowell Community Foundation (GLCF) facilitated the project by partnering with a state-directed program to allocate federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds to nonprofit organizations addressing food insecurity in the region.

In partnership with the Massachusetts Department of Housing & Community Development (DHCD), GLCF administered the CARES Act Community Development Block Grant Food Security Program throughout Greater Lowell, explained Jay Linnehan, GLCF President and CEO.

“Through this state program, the Foundation has been able to direct federal funds to support low- to moderate-income households in our service area who are facing food insecurities as a result of COVID-19,” Linnehan said. “Our goal was to partner with nonprofits in our region who provide services to individuals and households living below 80 percent of the applicable area median income,” he added.

Last winter, thanks to this Food Security Program funding, Community Teamwork Inc. (CTI) launched a pilot program with the urban farm program Mill City Grows, to deliver Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares to 28 families living in CTI’s family shelter in Tewksbury, according to Amy F. Weatherbee, CTI’s Director of Planning & Quality Improvement.

“We established this program to bring fresh, healthy food to our clients who are experiencing homelessness,” explained Weatherbee. “And we are also supporting Mill City Grows, which has a mission to expand distribution of its locally grown food to residents who need it.”

A Lowell nonprofit, Mill City Grows encourages food justice by improving physical health, economic independence, and environmental sustainability through increased access to land, locally-grown food, and education, according to Co-Executive Director Courtney McSparron.

“Our main farm is located in Lowell, and we predominantly serve Lowell,” said McSparron. “However, we had recently expanded our CSA deliveries to Dracut, Tyngsborough and Tewksbury. So, when CTI called, it was perfect.

“This partnership enables us to deliver a lot of produce to one site – it’s ideal and furthers our mission to get more people fresh food,” she added.

The Tewksbury family shelter is run by Bela Arruda, CTI’s Rehousing & Stabilization Services Manager. She estimates that some 80 individuals — adults and children – enjoyed Mill City Grows’ produce last winter.

“Our families loved it,” said Arruda. “We delivered CSAs every two weeks and they were so thankful. Fresh produce can be very expensive to buy.”

Another thing the families enjoyed was learning about the different vegetables and fruits they received in the CSAs, she said. Mill City Grows included information about the produce delivered, along with recipes and suggestions about how to prepare it.

“Cooking and eating together – and learning about new foods – can be a bonding experience for these families, who can be experiencing difficult and stressful situations,” Arruda added.

The winter CSA pilot program was so successful, according to Weatherbee, that CTI applied for and received more funding to continue serving families through the summer, as well as to expand the program to individuals.

Beginning in June, Mill City Grows began delivering CSAs to individuals living in CTI’s newly opened Summer Street shelter in Lowell, which provides permanent housing for 19 previously chronically unsheltered individuals.

“Serving our Tewksbury shelter and Summer Street with CSAs made sense, because these families and individuals have kitchenettes in their units and can cook and eat together, as well as store fresh produce,” said Sean Wilson, CTI’s Deputy Division Director of Family Homeless Services, Housing & Homeless Service Department.

According to McSparron at Mill City Grows, a very high percentage of what the families and individuals receive in their CSAs is grown close by. “This is very good, very fresh produce – grown without pesticides or herbicides – which is not traveling very far to get to them.” And Mill City Grows raises culturally sensitive crops, as much as possible, she added.

“We’re always changing what we grow, based on what the community asks for. We have a large Southeast Asian population here in Lowell, and a growing African community. We work closely with our farmers to grow specialty produce – like water spinach, bitter melon and different types of eggplants – that these populations like.

“James Tierney, our CSA Manager, has really made this program successful. He’s very responsive to participants’ feedback. We’re very hopeful this partnership continues,” said McSparron. “These are the families we want to serve.”

Community Teamwork Inc. is also happy with the arrangement, added Wilson. “CTI is serving some of the most vulnerable and food-insecure clients in the Commonwealth,” he said. “This program was an opportunity to try something new, to bring fresh produce to families experiencing homelessness.

“And this program also helps promote feelings of self-sufficiency in these families. We want them to leave our shelter feeling confident that they can handle new and different situations.”

For more information about the Greater Lowell Community Foundation, visit:

About Greater Lowell Community Foundation — Established in 1997, the Greater Lowell Community Foundation (GLCF) is a philanthropic organization comprised of more than 450 funds dedicated to improving the quality of life in 21 neighboring cities and towns. With financial assets of nearly $65 million, GLCF annually awards grants and scholarships to hundreds of worthy nonprofits and students. It is powered by the winning combination of donor-directed giving, personal attention from Foundation staff, and an in-depth understanding of local needs. The generosity of our donors has enabled the Community Foundation to award more than $40 million to the Greater Lowell community