Young and Hungry

FRESHFARM to Double Value of Food Stamps to Break the Yuppie Stranglehold on Farmers Markets

The headline is tongue-in-cheek, but it's also true: How many low-income folks do you see shopping at local farmers markets?

The question is particularly relevant in D.C., where, according to the Mayor's Office, 105,751 residents are food stamp recipients. How many of them do you think shop at the Dupont Circle market when they have to eat on, essentially, $3 a day? A couple of years ago, a few members of Congress took up the challenge to eat for a week on a food stamp budget. Trust me, they weren't shopping at farmers markets.  Sometimes, they ate crappy food, just like the experts say the poor do.

Today, FRESHFARM Markets, a local nonprofit dedicated to bringing local farmers and urban eaters together, announced that it will double the value of government-issued food stamps (and other relief coupons) at two of its Saturday markets: the one on H Street NE and the other in Silver Spring.  According to a FRESHFARM release, these markets were " targeted for the initiative because they are in neighborhoods that have a significant number of residents who receive financial assistance to buy healthier food."

So how can farmers at FRESHFARM markets afford to, in essence, cut their prices in half for such a potentially large pool of shoppers? The nonprofit, according to a publicist, received a grant from Wholesome Wave Foundation to cover the costs. The grant lasts through the end of the market season, which is November for H Street NE and December for Silver Spring.

FRESHFARM says more funding is pending to expand the program. The full text of the release is after the jump.

July 7, 2009 (Washington, DC) — A new grant to FRESHFARM Markets, a Washington, DC nonprofit, from the Wholesome Wave Foundation will enable low-income residents to double the amount of food they can get at two local farmers' markets when they use government-provided EBT/SNAP food stamps, Women and Infant Coupons (WIC) or coupons from the Senior Farmers' Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP). Additional funding is pending to expand the program.

"This grant is greatly significant to FRESHFARM Markets as it provides us with an opportunity to provide additional benefits to residents who might not normally shop at our markets and to help educate them on the importance of fresh, healthy fruits and vegetables in their daily diets," stated Bernadine Prince, co-director of FRESHFARM Markets. "National research has shown that people who have access to affordable, healthy food from the markets will continue to shop there after they have been exposed to the benefits of fresh food from local farms."

The H Street, NE FRESHFARM Market and Silver Spring FRESHFARM Market locations are targeted for the initiative because they are in neighborhoods that have a significant number of residents who receive financial assistance to buy healthier food. Both FRESHFARM Markets are seasonal and are open this year on Saturdays. The H Street, NE FRESHFARM Market, at 625 H St. NE (across from the H Street Self Storage) is open from 9:00 AM until 12:00 PM May through November 21, 2009, and the Silver Spring FRESHFARM Market, on the pedestrian mall on Ellsworth Drive, is open from 9:00 AM until 1:00 PM May through December 19, 2009. Market staff will be available under the Market Information Tent at each location to answer questions and assist shoppers with converting their food stamps and other coupons into market "double dollars" that they can use to purchase healthy, local food from the farmers.

FRESHFARM Markets, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, was founded in 1997, starting with the opening of the market at DuPont Circle. Inspired by a vision of a more sustainable regional food system, the markets were created not only to connect urban residents with local farmers, but also to educate the public about food and farming issues, and to provide tangible economic opportunities for farmers. As of 2009, FREHSFARM Markets operates eight producer-only farmers' markets in the Washington, DC metro area with farmers from Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia and Delaware. More information is available at www.freshfarmmarkets.org.

  • HQ

    I work at the H street market, and last Saturday we got our first customer for the doubling- his $50 turned into $100 worth of food. Even at a "yuppie" market, that's still a hell of a lot of money. We've had trouble getting the word out, so thanks Tim, and please, tell everyone you know!

  • http://stacialynn_12@yahoo.com Stacia

    Fantastic. Finally a way to feed people and help curb obesity. I'm amazed at the amount of people ignorant to the fact that the poor in this country can aptly afford only 'fatty' foods,thus contributing to health costs. KUDOS!

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  • Liz

    Thanks for letting people know. I wholeheartedly agree that fresh foods need to reach those with a a small food budget (and probably no health care). I am a bit annoyed though that you claim you can tell who is shopping with foods and who is shopping with "yuppie" cash.

    And by the way, not food stamps but WIC Farmer's Market coupons can only be used at FM vendors. So it's either use them or let them go to waste, there's not choice between fresh food and crappy food.

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