Fresh Food for Stamps

US Census Data Statistics show a distinct correlation between obesity rates and the percentage of the population living below the poverty line. Seven of the top ten states on the obesity list also include the highest concentration of poverty. Highly processed foods are cheap, and many families sacrifice their dietary needs in order to purchase other necessary goods. Wholesome, nutrient-rich foods are costly and difficult to come by in many areas of the county. Why should access to adequate and healthy diets be reserved for the affluent population? The county of Tahema, California is taking leaps and bounds to change this trend and lessen the widening nutrition gap between income brackets.

The city of Red Bluff, which lies in the county of Tahema, was formerly regarded as a “food desert,” an area where low-income residents have little or no access to adequate grocery stores or food sources. The city of Red Bluff, with the help from the United States Department of Agriculture, has received funding to apply Electronic Transfer Benefits (Food Stamp) at local farmers markets.

The process is simple; the residents use the card to “purchase” tokens at the markets, and then exchange these tokens in for produce or other products at the stands. The county of Tahema has rich, fertile agricultural land and provides fresh produce nearly year round. Allowing lower income residents to partake in the purchase of fresh foods will not only be beneficial to the residents themselves, but can help promote a vibrant local economy.

This program has been implemented in numerous places all over the county. In Minneapolis, the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, has organized Mini Farmers Markets in neighborhoods with limited access to healthy foods, and the majority are authorized to accept WIC and Farmers Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) food assistance coupons. At the 20 Mini Markets located in community centers, senior housing facilities, hospitals, educational institutions, churches and other neighborhood hubs, five or fewer farmers sell locally grown vegetables, fruits, and flowers.

Minnesota, New York, Utah, Illinois, Oregon, Washington and Pennsylvania all have the same program in various forms. Nearly ¼ of the nation’s 6000 farmers markets now accept food stamps, and the USDA hopes EBT cards are universally accepted by 2020.

Youtube video highighting the suceesses of Farmer's Market food for Stamps Program in San Diego