Aug 08, 2020

Community Development Committee City Council

October 22, 2018
Meetings & Notices

October 22, 2018
5:00pm – City Council Chambers - City Hall

The City Council Community Development Committee will be meeting on Monday, September 22nd at 5:00pm to review options to increase access to healthy, affordable food as a means to improve health outcomes in the West End (particularly access for Brayton Hill Terrace and Greylock Valley Apartments) in North Adams, MA.


• Call To Order

• Citizens Comments

• Initiatives or Programs Already in Place as it Pertains to Low Income Households and Access to Healthy Food Options

• Potential Plans Moving Forward for Equal Access to Healthy Food Options and Transportation

• Consideration of Resolution to State Representative in Support of Access to Healthy Food

• Adjourn

Office of the City Council

10 Main Street Room 104
North Adams, Massachusetts 01247
(413) 662-3000, Ext. 1

October 22, 2018

Councillors Present: Councilor Buddington, Cohen, Lamb and Hopkins
Members of the Public Present: Mass in Motion, Northern Berkshire Community Coalition (NBCC): Community Health worker: Amanda Chilson

Meeting was opened at 5:00pm

Councillor Cohen offered a summary of the initial communication brought to the meeting of the City Council on September 21, 2018.

Councillor Cohen: With the closing of Price Chopper in Feb of 2016 concern has been raised by citizens regarding access to fuel and healthy food. The closest big box grocery store (Big Y) is 1.2 miles away. Getty gas station will reappear in the West End at some point which will give the residents in the west end quarter of the city a place to obtain fuel. There are still issues that are concerning in this area of the city that is listed as a food desert. This includes equal access to healthy food options and lack of transportation.

A. Chilson explained that Mass in Motion had a market initiative to address food availability in convenience stores. Ms. Chilson notes that there is a lack of convenience stores in the west end. Projects on behalf of a community are more effective with direct involvement of the community itself.

Councillor Cohen agrees that broad involvement will make it more sustainable and should web with 2030 plan moving forward.

Councillor Hopkins asked if this would be on the NBCC forum agenda for this year.

Ms. Chilson explained that food security was covered last year, but not scheduled for this year. She questioned if anyone had been in contact with everyone involved in food, including farmers, students, or retailers. She commented that there are a lot of services for emergency food but the lack of healthy options especially in retail food in the west end of the city are lacking.

Ms. Chilson listed a few services that she was aware of that offer food services to all residents in the city: Friendship Center, Berkshire Food Project, Harvest Christian and Ministries on River St. offered breakfast, until recently.

Councillor Buddington agreed to make a map of food sources, data to be provided by Ms. Chilson.

Councillor Cohen brought up the question being asked regarding other low income neighborhoods such as Mohawk Forest and Berkshire Landing. “Why are we focusing on only the west end”? It was discussed that Mohawk Forest and Berkshire Landing have options that the west end lack, such as Cumberland Farms which has reasonably healthful options and is close by (within a half a mile) to the neighborhoods.

Ms. Chilson expressed that she was interested in getting better food in convenience stores, in addition, incentives to encourage stores to market healthier food to residents in the city.

Councillor Buddington brought up question about BRPC improvements and how this could tie together.

Councillor Cohen expressed her concern regarding the decrease of services and underused routes in the city and how this affected the population of people that do not have adequate transportation in their lives. Taxi companied used to collaborate with the BRTA to offer "B tickets" that provided door-to-door services for people that could not get to bus stops. This played an integral part in compliance with medical care, access to big box grocery stores and to their place of employment. Through the Berkshire Rides Program, Berkshire Community Action Council (BCAC) used to offer rides to residents to their place of employment for a reduced rate. Funding was cut for this program by the state of Massachusetts in 2015 and as a result, people in North County are now struggling to access reliable transportation. This in turn, affects their daily wellbeing and further isolates and burdens residents that are low income.

Ms. Chilson offered a suggestion regarding a shuttle services that could run between neighborhoods and stores at a few specific times. She suggested that the Housing Authority could help fund such a service possibly.

Councillor Cohen suggested education regarding people shopping online?
Ms. Chilson brought up concern about access to reliable internet and buy in by residents, especially those that are elderly.

Councillor Hopkins asked that we question and analyze: How much extra are people spending by walking to a convenience store? How much is a taxi to the supermarket? Could we compare that to online ordering including delivery?

Councillor Buddington asked if it would it be cheaper to aggregate orders.

Councillor Cohen wanted to address the barriers to resources in the area including access to the information regarding services. Are all residents being informed often? Are transportation options available other than the bus route? Are there social barriers that are prohibiting the transfer of information and/or blocking people from participating in programs that are offered due to stigma?

Ms. Chilson explained that in her experience, people with urgent problems e.g. addiction, unemployment and family trauma won't spend much energy on getting better food if there are not immediate options that are accessible.

Councillor Buddington noted that home gardens don't produce enough calories, but can provide valuable nutrition during summer months.

Chilson offered that a door-to-door survey would be helpful to get a realistic idea of the barriers to getting good food.

Councillor Cohen noted that people want independence and that carpooling may not appeal to people. One advantage to having a big box grocery store in a highly populated area with a low socioeconomic population was that people could walk. The residents in the west end used to walk to Price Chopper and it was accessible to both low income housing projects. People tend to make healthier choices if the choices are available and easy to obtain. This gave residents that option to preserve their independence.

Ms. Chilson explained that the North Adams Public School System gets USDA grant to feed all children up to 18+, this includes summer months.

Councillor Buddington asked if there were a basic list of healthy food so that the committee could compare prices at stores.

Ms. Chilson answered that WIC may have a market basket of basic healthy foods that we could use to have a starting point to price check.

Councillor Cohen addressed the idea that the possibility could be explored more in using the mobile food service model to bring food to the neighborhoods more often

Councillor Cohen asked Ms. Chilson if the food pantries delivered.

Ms. Chilson answered no, but volunteers will help transport people.

Councillor Lamb introduced the idea that the WRAPS program allows kids to take prepackaged food home (recaptured dining services food at Williams College). This is available to Mohawk Forest, Roots Teen Center and the children at Brayton/YMCA.

Councillor Lamb also brought forth information that MCLA’s contest winner was a mobile food truck. He also brought up the services at the Dream Center and Roots Rising in Pittsfield, MA. In addition, he said that Roots Rising just got a van and could be of service in North County as well or a model for another agency.

Ms. Chilson explained that the Food Access Collaborative was discussing bringing this to North County.

Councillor Lamb said that the food pantry in North Adams was also using NBCC vans to transport people.

Councillor Cohen asked the question again regarding stigma and how the organizations that offer these programs have addressed stigma to increase buy in from residents in need of these services.

Councillor Lamb explained that the biggest limit in Berkshires is first/last mile, such as getting
to/from bus stops. He explained that vehicles used for one program in the city could possibly be used for others services or needs in off hours.

Councillor Lamb offered the idea about having a shelf in every convenience store dedicated to healthful food.

Councillor Buddington asked if there were options for teaching cooking.

Ms. Chilson replied yes, but they often have trouble getting participants.

Councillor Cohen offered up information that other resolutions have been passed in communities regarding access to healthy food options in low income/ food desert areas. Often they cite state data about obesity rates and stress access to healthy foods. Will work on possible resolution with Chilson.

Councillor Lamb: a local business was concerned about more government involvement
in business. He explains that “even recruitment of a new business could be a problem”.

A replacement Price Chopper would likely face the same problems as previously had due to size of population, but the changing demographics may help that.

Councillor Cohen states that the committee was simply organizing information about existing programs that are useful and that there was no interest in recruitment effort at this point in the process.

location dymanics

Councillor Buddington asked the question: Is there any real “organization” within low-income

Ms. Chilson explained that there used to be regular coffee meetings in Brayton & Greylock Valley neighborhoods but has sense dissipated as far as she knows. Glenda from NBCC is now Northern Berkshire Neighbors coordinator and could be of assistance in the future regarding organizing tenant groups.

Councillor Lamb asked if the Greylock Club is one social gathering place and could this be an option to hold meetings. He also reminded group about the Greylock School/Appalachian Trail (AT) informational kiosk. This could be a great place to post services and meetings.

Councillor Cohen brought up the bus stop at Brayton Hill as well that could be used as an information point.

With no further business or discussion, Councillor Cohen motioned to adjourn at 5:57 PM, seconded by Councillor Hopkins.

Meeting Minutes Submitted:

Rebbecca Cohen