Some good news on the food and ag front...
The USDA has released its findings that farmers markets have increased 16% since 2009, with the largest increase throughout the nation's heartland.
That's the good news, but a closer look reveals that while the number of farmers markets have increased in the U.S., there are still obstacles to overcome for those utilizing government nutrition programs - or SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), formerly knows as "food stamps". While the "food stamps" program has come a long way in reducing the stigma attached by incorporating the use of "plastic" (EBT cards), many individuals are still challenged when it comes to using them to access local, seasonal produce at the farmers market.
The challenges largely lie in the lack of scanners and equipment needed to use the EBT cards. This, unfortunately, leaves few options for those needing nutritional assistance in accessing fresh, and often times healthier, foods. Many markets have come up with some creative options, including the use of wooden tokens. Andy Fisher has summed up the issue well over at Civil Eats blog in his post "Real Food, Real Choice". Check it out!
To find a farmers market near you this summer, visit www.localharvest.org.