If you could pick a peach grown by a local orchard grower, would you? Could you walk downtown in your community and find a fresh produce stand? Did you know you can spend Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP dollars at the farmers market?
Millions of dollars in federal investment is going to give more people on low incomes access to fresh foods while boosting local agriculture and small business in places all across the United States. Federal agencies have announced grants to support farmers markets in opening commerce to recipients of SNAP, what was formerly known as food stamps. The application time has ended for the SNAP-related program, with the announcement of more than $3 million in new support for farmers markets expected this fall. The US Department of Agriculture already provides free wireless equipment for farmers to use to accept SNAP via electronic benefit transfers or EBT.
A separate grant program you can apply for here offers $800,000 in federal money to help communities creatively promote local food. This initiative is called Local Foods, Local Places. This initiative could help relieve food deserts and increase access of fresh, local food to communities in need. We’ve already shown you examples of programs similar to this working in small-town areas like Williamson, West Virginia, which has been an early recipient of nutrition grants, and we’ve shown you mobile farmers markets. We’ve even shown you leading organic farming researchers pairing up with medical experts to promote food for wellness. While the grant does not specify growing methods, many small, local food programs focus on growing food with organic methods, with demand growing rapidly for food grown without toxic pesticides.
The USDA reports ag industry estimates that local food sales now exceed $11.7 billion per year. The agency also reports that SNAP redemption for farm-direct food has been rapidly increasing as accessibility increases, with $18.8 million of those federal benefits spent at places like farmers markets in 2014.
“All Americans, including those participating in our nutrition assistance programs, need to include more fresh fruits and vegetables in their diet. America’s farmers have an important role to play in addressing that need in communities across the country,” said US Agriculture Under Secretary Kevin Concannon during a recent visit to a farmers market in Philadelphia.
The USDA says it has awarded tens of millions of dollars in funding to support local, state and federal programs that can encourage low-income Americans to buy more fruits and vegetables.