Healthy Diet, Healthy Community, Healthy Economy: SNAP Programs at Farmers Markets
Author: Amelia Joselow, Director of Marketing and Outreach, Green Program Director, Cambridge Winter Farmers Market co-manager
Update!: Cambridge Winter Farmers Market now offers $15 SNAP matching (raised from $10), meaning SNAP users can exchange $15 SNAP for $30 in market tokens! More here!
Did you know that over 700,000 children and adults, more than one out of ten households, in Massachusetts deal with hunger on a daily basis? Did you also know that hunger and obesity are intricately tied? This is because families with lower incomes often make food choices based on "calories per dollar" in order to stretch their food budget and feed their families. Unfortunately, highly processed, high fat, high sugar, high sodium foods tend to be the cheapest, and therefore the most widely consumed by families who are fighting hunger.
"Obesity is a major public health problem in the U.S. While all segments of the population are affected, low-income and food insecure people are especially vulnerable due to the additional risk factors associated with poverty, including limited resources, limited access to healthy and affordable foods, and limited opportunities for physical activity. Even individuals who are highly motivated can have difficulty eating healthy and being active if their environments do not support or allow such behaviors (Institute of Medicine, 2009)."
The Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, SNAP, formerly known as food stamps, provides eligible individuals and families (the average SNAP household has a gross monthly income of $744) a small amount to help pay for their food. SNAP is accepted at grocery stores, drug stores, and some corner stores, and EBT (Electronic Benefits Transfer- the SNAP debit card) can be used to purchase most kinds of food. While SNAP/EBT does put food on the plate for families in need, unhealthy food is still the cheapest and the hunger-obesity paradigm persists. So even with government help, how do we break this cycle?
The Federal Farm Bill, the government bill that allocates money to SNAP benefits, farm subsidies, and other food and farm issues, has a small provision to allow SNAP users to buy fresh fruits and vegetables at local farmers markets. Two possible problems with this provision are: 1. not all markets are easily accessible (many are only accessible by car and are situated outside of cities) and they may not offer this program and 2. farm-fresh foods are often more expensive than "junk foods."
Fortunately, many markets have found a way around these problems. In the city of Cambridge there are farmers markets every day of the week during the summer, all accessible by public transportation. Over the winter, new winter markets pop up. The Cambridge Winter Farmers Market, located near the Central Square T stop and directly adjacent to public housing, brings farm-fresh foods into the heart of the community. Also, thanks to an EBT machine and the generosity of many donors (listed below), CWFM is able to offer SNAP matching, meaning SNAP dollars are doubled to spend at the market- $10 SNAP=$20 market-fresh produce and foods. That is a 50% discount for SNAP users, making healthy food more affordable.
Regarding the Farm Bill provision, U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., chairman of the Senate Agricultural Committee, stated “This program helps families buy healthy food from their local farmers markets, which also helps family farmers and boosts the economy.” By making healthy options affordable to SNAP users, CWFM and similar markets aim to break the hunger-obesity cycle, improve personal and community health, and support the local economy.
Want to find out more about this program and others at CWFM?
Or email Amelia at firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information, please read:
For FAQs and to apply for SNAP, please visit: http://www.gettingsnap.org/
Cambridge Winter Farmers Market SNAP matching donors:
Cambridge Trust Company
Gilman, Guidelli, Bellow
and our generous customers.
Make a safe online donation through the Cambridge Community Center. Make sure to leave a comment that it is designated to the SNAP matching fund.
Marketing of the SNAP program is funded in part by a grant from:
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation
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