More than farm to fork: Making healthy foods accessible to everyone
Wherever you are in the country, chances are you’ve found yourself spending a morning (or two, or three—no judgements here!) at your local farmers markets, perusing the colorful rows of fresh, local produce and goods. Whether you’re just picking up a few key ingredients for a fruit salad, or doing most of your shopping for the week—farmers markets are a great way to support not only your healthy diet, but the local farming community, too.
But did you know that many of these farmers markets are going one step further and ensuring that they reach as many members of the community as possible—by accepting SNAP EBT payments? The SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), formerly known as the food stamp program, is a project that helps low-income families by providing benefits and resources to purchase basic food products. In 2016, over 45.4 million people were participating in SNAP. These benefits can be used as payment in any SNAP retailer approved by the USDA.
As farmers markets surge in popularity, more of them are seeing the benefit in accepting SNAP/EBT payments: it’s a key way to provide healthy, affordable foods for the whole community. So instead of having limited options from big box retailers—where oftentimes the selections are primarily processed, high-sodium and caloric foods—farmers markets provide a bigger bang for the buck (farmers market foods are typically much cheaper than their grocery store counterparts), and you know the foods have gone straight from the local farm to your fork.
Just as these markets are jumping on board to make their wares more accessible to all families, businesses and healthcare facilities are taking notice and seeing the value these programs offer their communities—and they’re eager to help. Lodi Memorial Hospital, for example, just gave the Lodi Chamber of Commerce a funding boost by providing a $2,500 grant. With these funds, the chamber will match the EBT payments of qualified SNAP recipients for Farmers Market produce purchases—dollar for dollar, on a first-come, first-served basis.
“Of the many meaningful projects in our community, we chose to invest in this program because it aligns with our mission of wellness,” says Janelle Meyers, director of Marketing & Public Relations at Lodi Memorial Hospital. “The ability to provide families with fresh fruits and vegetables is essential for the health of our population.”
The Lodi Chamber of Commerce calls these types of grants the “ultimate win-win” because it fuels its philosophy that business and community health go hand in hand. The goal for Lodi is to be empowered by nutritious food choices and to celebrate health and wellness as the community grows together.
Meyers adds, “This is a wonderful program we are proud to be part of. It makes it possible for low-income families right here in our community to access local, healthy foods—and it’s a bonus that it also supports our local farmers.”
If you find yourself in Lodi, check out the farmers market and all the great vendors and community events going on there during these warm summer months. Also head to this website to find a list of national farmers markets—you can also see which ones participate in the SNAP program.