June 26, 2007

Forward Thinking in Action: Farmers Market Food Stamps

Shopping at farmers markets is just too expensive! How many times have you either heard this or thought it yourself? As much as I'd like to deny the naysayers, the fact remains that for many people across the country, spending food dollars on local farmers markets where you are likelier to have access to organic foods is just too cost-prohibitive to be justified.

I was reminded of this myself recently when I went down to my own local farmers market, which is incredibly affordable (dare I say cheap). At Alemany I filled my large canvas bag full of fruits, veggies and eggs—almost two weeks worth of food for two—for about $20. Later that morning I was running errands in posh Noe Valley (think Birkenstocks and baby strollers, as they say), when I discovered that I'd forgotten carrots and onions for soup, I cruised over to the Noe Valley farmers market, which is much smaller than Alemany but shares some of the same vendors. I picked up two organic carrots and one organic onion. The vendor weighed them up and casually asked for $2.50. That's just outright insulting (and no, I didn't pay it).

It's no wonder that organics and farmers markets have a reputation! So it's phenomenal to see more and more farmers markets accepting food stamps; after reading an article about an Athens, Ohio farmers market that now accepts food stamps, I did a little digging. Turns out there are quite a few out there, including:
I know there are many more, so please feel free to add your own resources. If you point me to statewide lists, I'll add them above. The next challenge is getting farmers markets set up near communitites that really need them. There are a few organizations working towards this, but not nearly enough. In an upcoming post, I'll talk about how you can start a farmers' market in your own neighborhood!

[Edit: Thanks to the Ethicurian, I just learned that the Logan Square market in Chicago is Illinois' first farmers' market to accept food stamps!]

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5 Comment(s)

Blogger m38967 said...

This is interesting news to me, wow! farmers markets accepting food stamps. Hopefully those that are cash tight, will take advantage of this. I just wonder how many folks who receive food stamps visit farmers markets, and how many would be downright suprised to find out they accept food stamps. I'm originally from Chicago, and was happy to read about the Logan Square Market being one of the designated few. I know the Logan Square area very well.

7:47 PM  
Blogger Jessie Jane said...

Yep, it's a great step but kind of useless without education and outreach. A few things cities and the farmers' market organizers could to to spread the word:

- Post notices at unemployment centers, city service centers, schools, groceries and convenience stores in low income areas, etc.

- Issue flyers with the food stamps themselves.

- Run radio and bus ads.

People need to get ahead of the game; now that they're making the technology accessible, they need to inform the people who could best take advantage of it.

And that, of course, includes setting up farmers' markets in low income areas.

—JJ

9:41 AM  
Blogger Dani Nordin said...

This is actually not QUITE new, at least from what I have experienced; most of the Providence RI farmers markets not only take food stamps, but they have incredibly affordable (and organic) food available, and the city in general has been doing a lot around community gardens, and there's even a South Providence collective that sells their produce (including some of the best salad mix I've ever eaten, complete with nasturtiums - which if you haven't tried them, are AMAZING in salads) at the Farmer's market. They have great pesto as well.

Boston, on the other hand, has been outrageous from what I've seen; however, I haven't been to any of the markets in the neighborhoods around me. It's been tough for me to find the time to go, and there's actually a service that delivers organic produce to me every week, so I've been sticking with that.

8:53 PM  
Blogger Dani Nordin said...

m38967,

In Providence, we had a lot of food stamp recipients going to farmer's markets; the food stamp office was very proactive about pitching the markets as a way for recipients to get healthy food affordably.

In terms of pricing, I think that the individual markets price based on the neighborhood - in South Providence, for example, I could get three bags of veggies (mostly greens, 'cuz that's what I like) for under $20; in South Station in Boston, I was getting half that for the price, if that.

Another great source of good, cheap veggies is Asian supermarkets; there are a few in the Boston/Allston area that have amazing produce insanely cheap. It's mostly Asian, but it's all tasty. You just have to be willing to experiment a little.

8:58 PM  
Anonymous Louda said...

I recently had this experience at the Ferry Building's Farmers Market, where some garlic and onions cost me double what they would have at Alemany (and Whole Foods, if you can believe it). I grimaced and swore off that place.

It never occurred to me that these markets should find a way to allow the use of food stamps, but its a brilliant idea. Healthy food shouldn't be just available to people who can afford it. Unfortunately, the farmer's can barely afford to grow a lot of it themselves and be profitable.

1:08 PM  

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