Posted on Tue, June 21, 2011 by Slow Food USA
6 Comments | Categories: Farms and Farming, Food Justice, Policy,
By Jesse Appelman
My neighborhood farmers market opened a few weeks ago, bringing the first local greens and asparagus of the season. In sunnier corners of the country, stone fruit and summer squash are already in (not that I’m jealous or anything). But as we celebrate the start of the market season, local produce remains an unaffordable luxury for too many.
The issue is a complex one, of course. It’s also a huge one: 1 in 7 Americans utilizes SNAP benefits (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). One way to begin to address the barriers that exist for people to have access to farm fresh food is to make SNAP benefits usable at existing farmers markets. The USDA offers resources to help farmers markets install electronic benefits transfer (EBT) terminals, which let shoppers use food stamps instead of cash.
Some communities and organizations across the country are getting even more creative, establishing programs that make SNAP benefits worth more when they are used at farmers markets.
Here are a few of these initiatives:
Nonprofits, local governments, and private foundations are bringing these benefits to thousands, but with 44 million Americans on food stamps, they need help. Federal funding in the upcoming Farm Bill to expand these programs to the national level, for example, could be one way to bring more healthy food to those who need it, boost business for family farms, keep more grocery dollars circulating in local economies, and build more vibrant communities by making farmers markets more accessible and affordable to all.
What’s your community doing to make farmers markets more accessible? Tell us in the comments.