Brown Market Shares Program
Established 2006

Subsidized Program


General Information

Our subsidized program is designed to make fresh, local produce accessible to all members of the Brown community. By offering lower-cost share options, weekly payment plans, and direct contact, the subsidized program works to cut across financial and communication barriers that might otherwise prohibit potential shareholders from joining the program.


Originally relying on grants from external sources such as United Natural Foods Inc., the subsidized program was re-organized when the Market Shares team decided to adopt a system of internal cross-subsidization. By nominally raising the cost of each non-subsidized share, the subsidized shares were ensured a consistent and reliable source of funding. Shareholders were first allowed to make donations to the subsidized program in the fall of 2012, and the income from this donation stream has played a significant role in the maintenance and expansion of the program since. Between the fall of 2010 and the spring of 2017, the proportion of our shareholders receiving subsidized shares rose from 24 to 50 percent–a 108 percent increase. Although the subsidized shareholder base has grown exponentially over the past couple years, many of the original shareholders have been able to remain in the program, and have incorporated the weekly produce into the way that they shop and cook for themselves and their families.

At the start of the program, the subsidized shareholder base was comprised entirely of Brown Dining Service workers. The idea was to complete a circle — to provide access to fresh, local produce to those who provided food to students in the dining halls. Over time, the program expanded to others employed by Brown University: secretarial staff, library workers, research assistants, and others. 


Currently, Brown faculty, staff, graduate students, and RUE students are eligible to apply for our subsidized program. BMSP does not offer subsidized shares to undergraduates (except RUE students) because Brown's financial aid policy includes the 'living costs', including food costs, that should be enough to cover a full-cost share. While we understand that many undergraduates would benefit from receiving a subsidized share, expanding our program to undergrads would require assessing individual financial situations in a way that, unlike Brown's financial aid office, we are not qualified to do. The only exception we make is for international students who did not receive a financial aid package upon matriculation but have since experienced a change in their financial situation such that they would qualify for a subsidized share. If you are an international student in this position and would like to apply for a subsidized share, please email our subsidized coordinator at

In order to allow for greater access to local, sustainably-grown food, the Subsidized Program offers two levels of pricing options: low- and middle-cost shares. Although we do not ask for proof of income from our applicants, we ask that you calculate your own eligibility using the guidelines in our subsidized program sign-up form. The guidelines are based on the 2012 RI Economic Progress Institute Report (formerly the Poverty Institute), which details the cost of living and groceries for Rhode Island families, as well as the Food Bank's 2014 Status Report on Hunger in RI. The income guidelines are in accordance with the 2014 Federal Poverty Guidelines and informed by RI SNAP eligibility. We understand that each family's circumstances are different and trust that you will choose the pricing level that best fits your needs while honoring the fact that there are many other families that are applying for spots in this program.

In some seasons, we receive many more subsidized applications than we can accept into the program. Because numbers change season to season, we cannot guarantee applicants who have participated in the program in the past a spot in any given season. With this in mind, we hope that you will carefully consider whether you can afford a full-cost share. If you believe you can afford a full-cost share, we encourage you to do so, since the need demonstrated by our applicants often exceeds our ability to offer subsidized shares. We are happy to arrange a weekly or monthly payment plan for full-cost shares if that is feasible.


Sign-ups for Fall 2019 are now closed