Cross-posted from Fair Food Network
By Kate Fitzgerald
As we said yesterday, you can help create the food system you would like for this country. Today, let’s look at the second easy action you can take to make your voice heard as the government gets back up to speed.
USDA has a little problem with bad publicity for the SNAP program. Although the vast majority of stores and consumers are honest, the bit of fraud that occurs gives the program a bad name and can add up to a tidy sum of taxpayer dollars.
Most of the ‘trafficking’ happens in small stores, and the Agriculture Department is wrestling with ways to crack down on the bad actors without making it harder for low-income families to buy food. Convenience stores are often the only option for people who live in communities without full-service grocery stores, and no one wants to make it harder to buy milk or bread or an apple.
Some thoughts on what could help:
- One obvious way to improve consumers’ access to affordable, nutritious food would be to make it easier for farmers’ markets, farmstands, CSA’s (community supported agriculture), and mobile markets to be authorized to accept SNAP benefits. There are more than 8,000 farmers’ markets in the U.S. but less than half accept SNAP benefits.
- A big part of the problem is that there is just one application to accept SNAP benefits and it is completely inappropriate for non-traditional food retailers. Creating an application for farmers’ markets would allow USDA to collect the information it needs to ensure program integrity while allowing farmers to serve low-income customers.
- USDA could also help SNAP participants choose healthy food by letting them know that their benefits can be used at many farmers’ markets. Most of USDA’s SNAP information is geared towards shopping at supermarkets, leaving many recipients thinking that they cannot use their benefits at markets. A second easy step would be for USDA to start giving equal promotional time to farm-direct healthy food retail. Why not tell the agency that?
Keep reading …
Cross-posted from Fair Food Network
This report summarizes initial results of a cluster evaluation of four organizations – Fair Food Network, Market Umbrella, Roots of Change, and Wholesome Wave – that offer SNAP incentives at farmers’ markets. The goal of the evaluation is to help inform further investments in SNAP incentives that have the potential to increase access to healthy food for low income consumers, improve the economic viability of farmers, and strengthen local communities.
Click here for the Healthy Incentives Cluster Evaluation 2011.
By Holly Calhoun
Wednesday May 9, the USDA announced $4 million in funding to increase the number of farmers’ markets accepting Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, formerly known as food stamps. The funding could increase revenues for farmers, improve fresh food access, and stimulate local economies by providing technology to farmers’ markets to allow SNAP customers to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables directly from the farmers who grow them. Lack of technology has been a major barrier for farmers’ markets to accept SNAP since the shift from paper food stamps to Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards. The USDA has long provided EBT terminals to brick and mortar stores. Farmers’ markets (many of which lack electricity and phone lines) require wireless terminals. Currently less than 25 percent of farmers’ markets are authorized to accept SNAP.
The Healthy Farms, Healthy People Coalition launched in November 2011 with the goal of boosting the agriculture sector and improving the health of the nation by forming cross-sectoral partnerships. The Coalition worked together with 40 public health, agriculture, and anti-hunger organizations to deliver a letter on November 18 urging the USDA to fund EBT technology in farmers’ markets. The Coalition commends the USDA’s leadership and is excited to see an early success in working with key partners across sectors for the mutual benefit of farmers and human health.
Enabling farmers’ markets to accept EBT increases revenue in direct to consumer sales for farmers and allows low-income shoppers who are at disproportionately high risk for preventable chronic disease to eat a healthier diet. The Healthy Farms, Healthy People Coalition applauds the USDA for providing funds that directly support the economic viability of farmers and health of communities. The Coalition thanks all 40 organizations that worked together for this important gain. The Coalition looks to build and grow these collaborations in a continued effort to better support America’s farmers and the health of the nation.
Read the full letter to the USDA with the list of signatories by clicking here.
To learn more, we encourage you to read the blog posts by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) and the Farmers’ Market Coalition (FMC).
Click here for the official announcement from the USDA and here for a blog post from Under Secretary Kevin Concannon.
Article from NSAC
April 2 marks the beginning of National Public Health Week, organized annually by the American Public Health Association to bring attention to current issues in public health. The first day’s “tools and tips” from APHA focus on healthy eating and supporting local food efforts.
With alarming trends in overweight and obesity, diabetes, and other diet-related diseases, including among American children, there has growing interest in recent years to explore how our food supply impacts the health of our nation. NSAC and its members are committed to using federal agriculture and food policy to strengthen public health.
Click here to view the whole article.
Give low-income people in Baltimore access to healthy produce at the city’s farmers market
(Published by The Baltimore Sun, November 14, 2011)
The idea to offer free EBT machines to farmers markets is gaining traction. Advocates in Baltimore argue that the USDA should provide free wireless EBT terminals to farmers markets. This relatively low-cost measure would ensure that all farmers markets are accessible to SNAP participants and increase revenue for growers. Check out the op-ed in the Baltimore Sun. And it’s not too late to sign the Healthy Farms, Healthy People Coalition letter asking USDA Secretary Vilsack to make free wireless terminals available now. E-mail Kate Fitzgerald at firstname.lastname@example.org by Thursday, November 17, to sign on your organization.