Better Boys & Brandywines: Second Harvest Partners with a Stokes County Farmers’ Market to Help Low Income Families Access Healthy Food

by | Aug 11, 2017 | #feedingchange | 0 comments

Better boy. Green Zebra. Cherokee Purple. Brandywine.

The air at King’s Farmers’ Market has a distinct and warm vegetable smell. Vendors are selling yellow squash, zucchini, eggplant and, yes, tomatoes: the vegetables of late summer.

“How many people are in your household?” asks Sonsera Kiger, Second Harvest’s Food and Nutrition Services Outreach Coordinator.

“Well, it is me and my three children, and right now I have my grandson with me,” a woman says, gesturing to the infant she is bouncing on her knee and trying to keep shaded from the hot sun.

“And I am disabled,” she adds.

Second Harvest Food Bank is out at the King Farmers’ Market answering questions about the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (commonly known as food stamps) and helping potentially qualifying families sign up.

This farmers’ market, like many local markets, accepts SNAP/EBT benefits for food purchase, as well as WIC and Senior FNMP (Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program) vouchers. They have come up with a “wooden coin” system that allows individuals to transfer these benefits into famers’ market currency so that all the vendors can participate. “We have easily brought in over $1,000 in SNAP dollars to our market this season,” says Deb Fox, the non-profit market’s treasurer.

The produce at the market is exquisite. The vegetables and fruit are clearly fresh: the average amount of time it takes for produce at a farmer’s market to make it from the field to the market is less than half a day, meaning that it better holds its nutritional value. There is also a large variety. At farmer’s markets, peppers are not just peppers, but a huge variety of colors and flavors and heirlooms, reminding us of the great culinary diversity available and reengaging us with our food.

King Farmers’ Market was established to provide fresh, healthy, and affordable produce, meats, dairy, and eggs to the local community and improve local food access and food security in Stokes County. This is why the market wants to promote the use of SNAP/EBT to their customers. “We think there are more people who could use the benefits if they just knew how to apply,” said Deb Fox, explaining why they embraced the idea of Second Harvest setting up a table to help with just that at the market. “In Stokes County there is going to be a huge population that is eligible.”

In Stokes County, 38% of all residents are low-income. This means that families are having to make difficult financial choices about how to cover their expenses. Food… especially healthy and fresh food… often becomes the fall guy: families make the decision to pay for their utilities, rent or medical needs and use what is left over to purchase food. That is why incentives, such as the one at the King Farmers’ Market, that double the value of one’s purchases when using SNAP, can go a long way for a Stokes County family.

Sonsera Kiger finishes going through a list of questions with the woman holding her grandbaby. She finds that the family does potentially qualify for SNAP benefits and explains to her what the next steps of the application are. “This should help,” the woman sighs. “A lot. A whole lot.”

For more information about SNAP at Farmer’s Markets click here.

PROTECT SNAP! Get involved with our advocacy work to protect SNAP for North Carolina families.

For more information about Food and Nutrition Services offered through Second Harvest Food Bank click here.

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