At our farmers market, food stamps (SNAP) are doubled in value. So, for example, for a $5 debit on the SNAP card, a person can get $10 in healthy, fresh, locally-grown food.
The program debuted two years and participation has doubled each of the last two years. We’re optimistic that it will continue to grow.
But it’s still just a drop in the bucket. Something like a million dollars a month are spent on food stamps here, and only a tiny fraction of those are spent are the farmers market. They mostly are spent on food that isn’t nutritious, and often at “convenience” stores with inflated prices and few offerings, as there aren’t any grocery stores in the poorest neighborhoods.
One of our regular customers is an inspiration and I wish more folks would follow his example. He lost his job and is on a tight food budget. He shops at the farmers market using food stamps because, in his words, “it’s the best deal in town.” He rides his bike to the market and takes his food home in a cart he pulls behind it. I’ve seen lots of stories about people not being able to afford good food on a food stamps budget. In his case he is able to eat a diet of healthy fresh food and has money left over.
I wish more people would follow his example. Obviously not everyone will be able to bike to the market, and not everyone is informed enough to understand how to use food dollars most wisely. To break the increasing dependency low-income people have on poor food of course we need to address the problem of “food deserts.” But we also need work on helping folks understand that there are good, affordable options.
It won’t be easy, but I’m convinced it can be done.