Good produce at a good price: It’s in the bag

Staff and interns join City Councilmember Corey Johnson, sixth from left, to prepare food bags for distribution.    Photo by Jeffrey LeFrancois
Staff and interns join City Councilmember Corey Johnson, sixth from left, to prepare food bags for distribution. Photo by Jeffrey LeFrancois

BY SCOTT STIFFLER  |  Getting your daily serving of fruits and vegetables doesn’t require a green thumb or a chef’s hat — just eight George Washingtons and one John Hancock.

Organized by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, the West Side Senior Supported Agriculture Food Bag Program is being run locally by the office of City Councilmember Corey Johnson. 

Don’t feel left out by the program’s name, however. Although it’s targeted toward seniors, participation is open to all residents of the Third City Council District, regardless of age or income level.

The Third District stretches roughly from Canal St. to W. 63rd St. On Thompson St., the boundary stretches north from Canal St. to around Washington Square, then at Eighth St., goes along Fifth Ave. to 23rd St., where the eastern border becomes Broadway up to Columbus Circle.

Each week, GrowNYC — the fertile minds behind the Union Square Greenmarket — deliver the goods to the Fulton Senior Center. There, Johnson, his staff and interns pack the produce into bags that are delivered to pickup locations, including Hudson Guild, the Fulton Senior Center, SAGE and Greenwich House.

The food bag delivery program runs through Oct. 22. Orders should be placed on Monday or Tuesday for delivery the following Wednesday. The cost is $8 per bag, cash only.

Each bag packs five to six kinds of produce, a $20 to $25 value, direct from local farmers. The produce selections vary from week to week. The July 30 bag had yellow squash, corn, green beans, Boston lettuce, basil and blueberries. The bag the week before had carrots, radishes, scallions, parsley, golden zucchini, cucumbers and red leaf lettuce. 

All of this good stuff comes from GrowNYC partner farms, such as Dagele Brothers Produce, a black dirt farmer whose lettuces are “the best around”; Davenport Farms, known for its sweet corn and peppers; and Toigo Orchards, a central Pennsylvania grower that utilizes integrated pest management in its orchard.

Each roughly 5-pounds bag comes with a guide outlining the contents, storage tips and a few recipes that require very little preparation.

“I’m so proud to be able to expand this program to Corey Johnson’s district,” Brewer said. “This is really a trifecta for seniors: fresh, local and affordable fruits and vegetables at a pace that a smaller household can manage while providing a market for local growers, too.”

Shortly after distributing bags for the program’s second week, Johnson praised the initiative’s capacity to expose people to “nutritious fruits and vegetables they might not otherwise try. It supports family farms, and builds a sense of excitement around fresh food,” he said.

Local interest has been strong, he added.

“The program is growing with each round of sign-ups,” he said. “I hope we can expand it to even more people in my Council district next year.”

To participate in the food bag program, people can sign up for it at Johnson’s district office, at 224 W. 30th St., between Seventh and Eighth Aves., Suite 1206. Call 212-564-7757 for more information.