Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Summary: Michigan, like the rest of the country, is currently suffering from an epidemic of diet-related chronic disease along with environmental and rural degradation related to the effects of industrial agriculture. Health Insurance Providers can support diversified family farms and the environment, and improve the health and eating habits of participants by offering incentives for CSA membership. Health Insurance Participants who purchase a weekly share of fresh vegetables and fruits from local, diversified CSA farms should benefit from improved health and eating habits, which can also have the effect of reducing health care costs. 

Proposal: The Great Lakes CSA Coalition working group was launched at the 2011 Local Food Summit in Washtenaw County, Michigan. We are working to replicate a successful non-profit organization in Wisconsin that has developed relationships with their local Health Insurance Providers to offer $100 wellness rebates to participants who become members of qualified CSA farms. 

Established 20 years ago, the FairShare CSA Coalition has 50 member farms in the Madison, Wisconsin area. CSA shares purchased from member farms have increased from approximately 300 in 1993 to over 9000 in 2011. A key factor in this increase has been the innovative partnership formed in 2005 between area Health Insurance Providers and the Fairshare Coalition. All four of the local Health Plan partners in Madison offer participants a wellness rebate of $100 toward a CSA produce share.

The HIP’s have reported that the CSA Coalition is critical to their ability to offer this wellness benefit. The Coalition provides a list of certified CSA farms for HIP members to choose from, enabling the HIP to simply check the member’s receipt of CSA purchase against the certified list.

We are working with CSA farmers in the Washtenaw County area to establish a Great Lakes CSA Coalition, patterned after the Wisconsin model.  This model also offers "Partner Shares" to assist with CSA membership for low-income members. 

By setting up the Great Lakes CSA Coalition to form an alliance of approved CSAs, we intend to provide the coordination and administrative infrastructure for our area's Health Insurance Providers to offer wellness rebates to CSA members.