Offsetting the cost of community-supported agriculture (CSA) for low-income families: Perceptions and experiences of CSA farmers and members

Stephanie B. Jilcott Pitts, Leah Connor Volpe, Marilyn Sitaker, Emily H. Belarmino, Amari Sealey, Weiwei Wang, Florence Becot, Jared T. McGuirt, Alice S. Ammerman, Karla L. Hanson, Jane Kolodinsky, Rebecca Seguin-Fowler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Community-supported agriculture (CSA) is an alternative food marketing model in which community members subscribe to receive regular shares of a farm's harvest. Although CSA has the potential to improve access to fresh produce, certain features of CSA membership may prohibit low-income families from participating. A 'cost-offset' CSA (CO-CSA) model provides low-income families with purchasing support with the goal of making CSA more affordable. As a first step toward understanding the potential of CO-CSA to improve access to healthy foods among low-income households, we interviewed 24 CSA farmers and 20 full-pay CSA members about their experiences and perceptions of the cost-offset model and specific mechanisms for offsetting the cost of CSA. Audio recordings were transcribed verbatim and coded using a thematic approach. Ensuring that healthy food was accessible to everyone, regardless of income level, was a major theme expressed by both farmers and members. In general, CSA farmers and CSA members favored member donations over other mechanisms for funding the CO-CSA. The potential time burden that could affect CSA farmers when administering a cost-offset was a commonly-mentioned barrier. Future research should investigate various CO-CSA operational models in order to determine which models are most economically viable and sustainable.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalRenewable Agriculture and Food Systems
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Food Science
  • Agronomy and Crop Science

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