The Food Journal and Food, Nutrition & Science

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Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Program from the Retailer

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Program from the Retailer

Dietitian Dialogues

July 24, 2011

A common question from consumers lately is “where did my food come from?” Living in the city, you don’t see many farms or even back yard gardens. We all know from experience that fresh picked foods taste much better than food that has spent its time in a truck or warehouse. Hen House Markets has found a way to give our customers fresh, locally produced items at a great price!  

Balls Food Stores have supported local growers since 1923 when Sidney Ball went to the city market and purchased from local vendors to sell in our first store. In 2004, we partnered with Food Routes and the Buy Fresh Buy Local Campaign. Through Good Natured Family Farms we support over 170 family farmers and producers. Our local foods come from within 200 miles of Kansas City. Hen House and Good Natured Family Farms have joined together to bring small family farms back to life and build relationships between the farmer, retailer and customer. 

We wanted to take our local food program to the next level. In the spring of 2006, we tested our first CSA program in one store. There were about 40 members. Last year, our fifth CSA program had 1,100 members and three Corporate CSA’s and a new Pick 5 CSA program with about 400 members!

How does the CSA Grower’s Alliance Program Work?

The CSA is an 18-week program that runs from the end of May to September. The customer buys his or her share of the weekly harvest and picks up a CSA bag each Saturday or Wednesday. The CSA bag is an assortment of local food, which includes protein, dairy, bread (biweekly) and produce. We also randomly offer locally produced items such as herbs, honey, lip balm, candles and flowers. We offer a Trading Table where customers can exchange items on a pre-determined point value system if they have allergies and diet restrictions. The cost is $25 a week, a savings up to 30% off regular retail. It is a membership program, so there is a one time $25 membership fee. The customer receives “goodies” such as a reusable shopping tote, t-shirt or apron, local cookbook, and luggage tag after signing up.  

I have the pleasure of writing the biweekly CSA Growers Newsletter, which highlights the farmers and producers. The customer learns about the farmer and his/her family, how they take pride and pleasure in producing wholesome food for the community and that the farmer truly loves what they do! I also write the Weekly CSA Newsletter that contains nutrition information, recipes, crop updates and storage tips. We have our Hen House Farmer’s Market each weekend, and the growers and producers are available to meet and talk with customers about their farms and products.

What is the CSA Pick 5 Program?

The CSA Pick 5 program is only an eight week program from July to August. All of our local produce is displayed outside in our farmers market. Items eligible for the Pick 5 program have the CSA Pick 5 logo on the signage with the grower information. The customer can choose from five of the CSA Pick 5 local produce items for $15. This option is for the smaller family or people that prefer a less expensive option to support local farmers and producers. 

Supporting local family farms benefits the whole community. We help keep small farmers in business while giving our customers fresh and healthy food. Our local economy benefits because we are helping our friends and neighbors. Our environment also benefits since the small farmers are responsible for their land as well as the food traveling a shorter distance to our shelves. Balls Foods Stores is a locally owned business, so partnering with our friends and neighbors just makes sense!

Jennifer Egeland, RD, LD, is the Dietitian/Natural Food Buyer for Balls Foods Stores/Hen House Markets/Price Chopper Markets. She has been a Supermarket Dietitian for over 12 years. Jennifer is involved in every aspect of overseeing the 17 Health and Naturals departments for the company, including category management, new item placement, resets, promotions and advertising. She is also involved in creating teammate wellness programs and nutrition education tours of the stores. Jennifer is a member of the American Dietetic Association, Kansas City Dietetics Association and the Missouri Dietetics Association.

As a nutritionist working for a supermarket, you have a unique outlook on how retailers are increasing health awareness at the store level and the kind of questions that shoppers ask. Each month, we'll be featuring a guest column, written by a nutritionist, that communicates this point of view on a variety of topics. And we want to hear from you. If you are a supermarket nutritionist interested in sharing your perspective and insights, we would love to help you share your thoughts! Please contact Allison Bloom at