a guest post by Mariah James, The Campus Kitchens Project intern
This spring, the US Department of Agriculture announced a $4 million expansion in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) at farmers markets. With this increase, more low-income families now have access to fresh, local food – and therefore better health.
Farmers markets are increasingly accepting payment from SNAP and even offer incentives such as “bonus dollars” for SNAP beneficiaries. When customers use their supplemental checks or food stamps on fresh food, markets match what they spend, so often recipients get double the amount of food for the same price. Markets all over the country are making it more cost efficient and easier for low-income individuals to shop at farmers markets. For instance, markets in Spokane, Wash., even alter their hours of operation to meet the schedule of nearby schools to better accommodate families.
Eating fresh food is important because a healthy diet is a stepping stone to a better lifestyle. Eating fruits and vegetables can reduce the chance of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer. In addition, fruits and vegetables contain vitamins and minerals that help boost the immune system, and fiber that makes people feel fuller longer and helps regulate digestion.
Our Campus Kitchen network is aiding in the accessible farmers market movement. The Campus Kitchen at Augsburg College (CKAC) has established two local markets near their campus that accept SNAP. The markets have an EBT machine, which allow customers to pay with their SNAP card. CKAC interns make accessibility to fresh produce even easier by translating the EBT process into Somali and Ethiopian to best meet the needs of their customers. The EBT machine also has a food match program that is almost identical to “bonus dollars” found at other markets.
Farmers markets are just one more way CKP is working to encourage healthy lifestyles and grow healthy communities.