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What difference does income make for Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) members in California? Comparing lower-income and higher-income households


In the U.S. there has been considerable interest in connecting low-income households to alternative food networks like Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). To learn more about this possibility we conducted a statewide survey of CSA members in California. A total of 1149 members from 41 CSAs responded. Here we answer the research question: How do CSA members’ (1) socioeconomic and demographic backgrounds, (2) household conditions potentially interfering with membership, and (3) CSA membership experiences vary between lower-income households (LIHHs) and higher-income households (HIHHs)? We divided members into LIHHs (making under $50,000 annually) and HIHHs (making over $50,000 annually). We present comparisons of LIHHs’ and HIHHs’ (1) employment, race/ethnicity, household composition and education, use of food support, and enjoyment of food-related activities; (2) conditions interfering with membership and major life events; and (3) sources of information influencing decision to join, reasons for joining, ratings of importance of and satisfaction with various CSA attributes, gaps between importance of and satisfaction with various CSA attributes, valuing of the share and willingness to pay more, and impacts of membership. We find that LIHHs are committed CSA members, often more so than HIHHs, and that CSA members in California are disproportionately white, but that racial disproportionality decreases as incomes increase. We conclude by considering: (1) the economic risks that LIHHs face in CSA membership, (2) the intersection of economic risks with race/ethnicity and cultural coding in CSA; and (3) the possibilities of increasing participation of LIHH in CSA.

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