Posts Tagged With: SNAP

Farmers’ Markets in Morgantown, West Virginia

This week and the following week I’ve been attending and participating in WVU’s GDI Bootcamp.  Bootcamp is a time where the new interns can become adjusted to Morgantown, meet faculty and their advisors, set up their schedule, and more. It is also helpful for the second year interns (including myself) to meet the new interns, hear from guest speakers, and practice our public speaking and presentation skills.

On Wednesday, intern Roanna Martin presented “Local Food: Space for Conversation” where she covered the growing movement of “Buy Fresh, Buy Local,” Farm to School, school gardens, CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), Farmers Markets in West Virginia, the economic impact of local foods, and the use of SNAP benefits at farmers markets through the use of EBT (electronic benefit transfer).

Local foods, especially farmers’ markets are a growing movement. There are now more than 7175 farmers’ markets around the US, which is more than 3 times the amount of farmers markets 15 years ago!

Farmers markets have many benefits. Not only do they offer a place and a space for the community to meet together and share positive food experiences, but they also can provide a place for kids to get excited about nutrition, community members to learn about cooking and nutrition, and a place for farmers and small business community members to earn money.   In fact, there was an estimated $1.725 million dollars spent at the 34 markets across the state of West Virginia (for a total of 331 vendors) in 2005.  That’s a lot of cash flow, and even more so now that there are around 60 markets in West Virginia currently.

There are 4 Farmer’s markets in Morgantown. Here are the days, times, and market information:

Farmers markets not only have fresh fruits and vegetables, but they also have meat products, eggs, dairy products, grains, and baked goods such as pies, cinnamon rolls, and fresh bread.  You can also find flowers, homemade jams & jellies, honey, caramel corn, herbs, homemade dog treats (!), and craft, fabric, & woodwork items. Attending a farmers’ market can be a great way to meet other like-minded individuals in the community, support local businesses, purchase some great, fresh produce and other delicious food items.  While fruits and vegetables at farmers’ markets have the same nutritional value as fruits and vegetables at the grocery store, the produce is often fresher and of higher quality because it doesn’t travel 1500 miles to get to your dinner plate.

Photo taken at the South Morgantown Market, courtesy of Roanna Martin

Photo taken at Barbour Co. Farmers’ Market (1 hour south of Morgantown), courtesy of Roanna Martin

Farmers’ Markets are also a great way to get to know the local food culture in the particular region where the market is held. If you find yourself traveling across the country for one reason or another, why not visit a local farmers’ market and pick up some fresh produce from that region?  Here’s a snapshot I took while in Kilauea, Kauai, Hawaii this past December. Notice how the local food of Hawaii is a bit different from the local food of West Virginia!

Fresh & Local Fruit at the Kilauea Farmers’ Market in Kauai, Hawaii

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2012 Farm Bill & SNAP

You may have been hearing news recently about the new Farm Bill being passed into the Senate.  However, the Farm Bill has been around for a long time. It first came to be in 1933 by Franklin Delano Roosevelt as a part of the New Deal, under the name the “Agricultural Adjustment Act.” Its role was to pay farmers subsidies for not planting certain crops, as well as killing off excess livestock. By doing this, the surplus of crops would be decreased, and the value (price) for crops would increase.  Today, the Farm Bill has expanded to cover agriculture (commodity programs, conservation programs, and trade), nutrition, rural development, and the forest service.  Every five years the bill (now The Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012 (S. 3240)) is passed.

This bill “ends direct payments, streamlines and consolidates programs, and reduces the deficit by $23 billion. It also strengthens top priorities that help farmers, ranchers, and small business owners continue to grow our economy.”  Sounds great!!

Although the Farm Bill covers forestry, rural agriculture, commodity programs, and nutrition; it is the nutrition programs that account for 67% of the Farm Bill spending.

One of the programs that the Farm Bill covers is SNAP, or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Previously known as “Food Stamps,” SNAP helps supplement the monthly food budget for low-income Americans.  Depending on their monthly income, a family of four could receive up to $668 per month, and an individual could receive up to $200 per month.  Food items that are eligible to be purchased with SNAP include:

  • Breads and cereals
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Meat, poultry, fish
  • Dairy products
  • Seeds & plants that produce food (ie: tomato plants, carrot seeds)
  • Special occasion cakes with over 50% of the value coming from the edible portion (up to 50% of value on non-edible decorations)
  • Gift baskets with over 50% of the value coming from food items (up to 50% of the value can be on non-food items)
  • Energy drinks with a nutrition label
  • …Junk food such as chips, soda, cookies, ice cream, candy bars, crackers, popsicles, etc.

Items that cannot be purchased with SNAP:

  • Vitamins, Medicines, Supplements
  • Alcohol, tobacco, cigarettes
  • Energy drinks with a supplement label
  • Foods that will be eaten in the store
  • Hot foods
  • Pet food

Several times in the history of SNAP, congress has considered placing further limits on what foods qualify for SNAP.  I mean, imagine a family using all $350 of their SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, remember) money to buy liters of Pepsi, quarts of ice cream, packages of cookies, a chocolate cake from the grocer bakery section, a 6-pack of energy drinks, cookies, Little Debbies, and potato chips.  Currently, families can do that if they would like.  Obviously, many people (including myself!) think that congress should make only nutritious foods qualify for SNAP, and not “luxury” foods.  But because of the time and labor that it would take to categorize all these food items, it remains up to the individuals or families to decide whether they want to buy junk food or nutritious food or a mix of both.

Now back to the Farm Bill…

Other nutrition programs the Farm Bill covers include the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program, and research. When these programs are funded properly, it puts Americans on the right path to improved health and nutritional status.  It also ensures that the right people are using SNAP benefits, and that the fraud and abuse within SNAP is decreased.

Thursday, June 21st the Farm Bill passed in the US Senate, with 64-35. Senator Debbie Stabenow from Michigan casted the 60th yea vote.  The next step is for the House to pass their version of the bill.

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Categories: Current News | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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