I have never worried that my family would not have enough to eat, or where my children’s next meal was coming from. Since I started writing my website and now, as I write “Diary of New Green Mom,” I am more aware of relationships in this country between food producers and consumers, and of the struggle that exists among our neighbors to put decent, healthy food on the table.
I started thinking much more about my family’s meals as I started looking at organic, local, and sustainable farming issues. Being a city mom with access to green markets–but limited experience with them–this seemed like a natural path to set out upon. We shop at our local green market every Sunday–the produce is spectacular, and we are supporting New York farms and farmers (and we always wear tiaras while doing so).
Among the gorgeously colored fresh produce at our Sunday market, the creamy yogurts we sample, and the freshly frozen meats we are able to buy and cook that night for dinner, is a blazing awareness that I am lucky. New York City alone has more than 50 opportunities to visit markets for fresh food, flowers, and a green, urban experience. The producer-only markets ensure “full traceability”; everything vendors offer–proteins, produce, and baked goods–can be traced to the land on which they were grown. For families with resources and the desire to buy the best food they can, this access is unmatchable.
But even local fresh produce can be hard to swallow on some budgets. This weekend we enjoyed delicious turkey burgers, potatoes and greens from the market, but they were not cheap of course. How do people with extremely limited means benefit from the opportunity to buy the best, freshest foods close to home?
And then I saw something very cool at the greenmarket this past weekend.
For people wanting to use their EBT/food stamps to purchase fresh vegetables, fruits, and clean meats at the local outdoor market, there was an entire booth with information. I never knew this option for families and individuals existed. The New York State Farmers Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) is a federally funded and state administered program, created to provide healthy and unprepared food options to WIC participants and low income seniors, and to expand the awareness and sales at farmers’ markets. According to the FMNP website, “in 2011, $2.7 million worth of FMNP checks were redeemed by Greenmarket producers.” (There are videos on the website explaining the process of using EBT/food stamps.) Additionally, NYC Health Department District Public Health Offices distribute “Health Bucks” for use at participating farmers’ markets.
For every $5 a customer spends using EBT, s/he receives one $2 Health Buck coupon. This increase of 40% in buying power stretches a Food Stamp budget and encourages shoppers to spend more of their monthly Food Stamp allotment on fresh produce from the market.
Affordable fresh produce for New York City families and more support for New York State farmers? Yes, that sounds like a win-win situation to me.
My family watches what we spend; we have to, but we are in a better position than so many others. Living here, that is always clear to me. As a mother, any child’s hunger is unacceptable, and another mother’s fears must be my own.
The federal Women, Infants and Children program (WIC) supports children at nutritional risk up to age five. I had never thought much about it. Except for once when I was pregnant with my first child: I was at a maternity store, and I had been complaining about the cost of “things” when one is expecting, and a cashier suggested I look into WIC to help pay for formula and other necessities. I was embarrassed. I thanked her, and I haven’t thought of that again.
But through these types of programs, WIC participants have help in finding and paying for healthy, locally grown foods. I love that my local green markets exist. As much as I love bringing my children to the two markets closest to us regularly for gigantic blueberries, red tomatoes, chunky banana bread, and freshly pressed apple juice, I love as much that the other moms standing with me in line also have that opportunity.
Oh, another win-win situation to be found at the green market? Wine and donuts.
Wendy Bradford is a mama of three, wife, writer, spin instructor, ardent New Yorker and blogger at mamaonetothree.com.
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