PITTSFIELD >> Downtown Pittsfield Farmers Market has landed a $10,000 grant toward a growing effort to put more fresh, local grown foods on the plates of the city's neediest people.
Seeds of Change, an organic seed and food purveyor, announced this week the market was among 20 recipients of a $10,000 award; four other community and school-based garden and farming projects each receiving a top prize of $20,000.
The Friends Academy Garden in Dartmouth was the only other winning Massachusetts entry, securing a $20,000 check.
Supporters of the market, set to open for its fourth season, voted in the group as a finalist in the grant program that bolsters agricultural offerings across the country.
Following online balloting for three weeks in April, the public voted Pittsfield among the 50 finalists from 850 organizations across the country to vie for the organization's 24 awards totaling $300,000.
Market manager Jessica Vecchia believes getting the grant validates the work market staff, volunteers and vendors have done since it began three years ago.
"There was that community voting that showed how important the market is to the community," she said.
The grant will, in part, fund an expanded program that supports low-income families in getting better access to healthy food and nutrition programs.
Seeds of Change aims to enhance the growth of local agriculture by financing backing organizations that teach adults and children about the food they eat and how it's grown.
With half of the Pittsfield residents placing into the low-income bracket, the local farmers market from July to October 2015 instituted the "Double Value Program" for those using SNAP, WIC, senior coupons and other federal nutrition benefits.
"There are a lot of people who don't know how to shop at a farmers market and use their SNAP benefits," she said.
The grant — the check to arrive in July — will also help pay for the youth workers hired to set up, break down the market tents and equipment and assist vendors in loading and unloading their vehicles, Vecchia said.
The Downtown Pittsfield Farmers Market's 2016 season at The Common on First Street is scheduled to start May 14 and run through Oct. 15. Hours are 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
A program of Alchemy Initiative, in partnership with the City of Pittsfield, the market debuted in 2013. Each Saturday up to 30 vendors cater to hundreds of people seeking fresh produce, meat, breads, flowers and plants, as well as handmade items. In addition, the market features live music, chef-led cooking demonstrations, workshops, special events and family-friendly activities.
Contact Dick Lindsay at 413-496- 6233.