Closer to home, in California, people receiving federal nutrition assistance are encouraged to shop at farmers’ markets thanks to the efforts of the California Farmers’ Market Consortium project. A healthy alternative for consumers who typically favor cheap bargains, as well as a bonus for farmers.
In 2009, less than 0.01 percent of food stamps (now known as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP) was redeemed at farmers’ markets, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, although one-fourth of the nation’s 6,000 or so farmers’ markets accept them. The major challenge, obviously, is cost.
Enter the California Farmers’ Market Consortium project, an initiative created last year by Roots of Change with $1 million dollars in Specialty Crop Block Grant funding from the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA). Here is how it works: Roots of Change uses matching philanthropic dollars to provide “top up” matching money of 50 or 100 percent (depending on the market) to increase buying power. Bonus vouchers are given to recipients of nutrition assistance when they shop at participating farmers’ markets to purchase fresh produce. These include seniors and recipients of SNAP, as well as WIC clients (a supplemental nutrition program for Women, Infants and Children).
About 850 farmers who sell their crops in 48 farmers’ markets in eight counties currently benefit from the extra sales. The Consortium is working hard at expanding its network of partners across the State.
Here’s to acknowledging the commitment and dedicated efforts of all the “food” soldiers who are determined to making our world a better place through the transformation of our relationship to food and farming.