Tag Archives: SNAP

Opportunities for Food Advocates in Health Care Initiatives

By Jean Terranova and David Waters

One week from tomorrow, the SNAP/Food Stamp benefit stimulus created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 will end. This means that all SNAP recipients will see a reduction in their already meager benefits beginning November 1. With the proposed drastic cuts to SNAP looming in the erratic Farm Bill negotiations, anti-hunger advocates must explore alternative sources of funding to supplement the food resources of people in need.

Black Bean Sweet Potato Soup

Black Bean Sweet Potato Soup

As the Affordable Care Act survived the showdown that brought the Government to its knees and states like Massachusetts are pioneering new models to improve health outcomes while decreasing health care spending, we believe the time is right for anti-hunger advocates to press for the inclusion of sustainable, healthy, affordable foods in the health care system. Studies show that food can be a low-cost means to keep people in their homes and communities, avoiding the need for exorbitant spending on emergency room visits, hospital stays, and nursing home admissions. A recent study estimated that if all states had increased by a mere one percent the number of adults age sixty-five or older who received home-delivered meals in 2009 under Title III of the Older Americans Act, annual savings to states’ Medicaid programs could have exceeded $109 million due to decreased spending on nursing home care. We believe this number would increase exponentially and have a major impact on our food system if these meals were to include high quality locally sourced fruits, vegetables, and other ingredients.

Stuffed Zucchini

Stuffed Zucchini

Here are three ways that you can join us and learn more about our campaign to advocate for the inclusion of food as prevention, treatment, and “medicine” for individuals with chronic disease and critical illnesses in health care reform initiatives:

Join the symposium we are co-hosting with Harvard’s Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation, the Food Law Policy Clinic, and the Food Law Society on October 30;

Attend our session on “Food is medicine and prevention” at the American Public Health Association on November 5;

Contact us if you are interested in joining our Advocacy Committee.

David B. Waters, CEO, Community Servings

Jean Terranova, Director of Food and Health Policy, Community Servings

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10 Tips for Farmers’ Market Shopping

hot pepperShopping at a farmers’ market is a great way to enjoy a wide variety of fresh delicious food. Yet, even as new markets continue to open across the state, there’s a persistent myth that produce at farmers’ markets costs more than at supermarkets.

The reality turns out to be quite the opposite. Barry Estabrook’s 2011 Atlantic article “The Farmers’ Market Myth” cited a Vermont study that found mixed results: some items cost less at the supermarket, others cost less at the farmers’ markets. For organic produce, the farmers’ markets beat the supermarkets on every item but potatoes.

My own informal produce price survey found a similar pattern. In a July 2011 survey of produce prices at the Belmont Farmers’ Market and two area supermarkets, the farmers’ market had the lowest prices on the most items.

turnips-beets-carrotsMany farmers’ markets also double SNAP benefits up to a certain amount, allowing SNAP recipients to stretch their budgets even farther.

Even so, successfully navigating a farmers’ market takes some getting used to. Most of us are savvy supermarket shoppers. But most of us didn’t grow up shopping at farmers’ markets, and it helps to take a different approach.

Here are ten tips to help you get your money’s worth at the farmers’ market.

  1. Make a budget and take that much cash with you. You can’t be tempted to spend what you don’t have. If you are a SNAP recipient, check with the market manager to see if the market accepts – or doubles – SNAP benefits.
  2. Tour the market. Before you start buying, take a walk through the market to see what’s available this week. This will give you a chance to check prices and quality at the different vendors. Keep your eyes open for sales.
  3. Try new foods. There’s often a wider variety of produce available at a farmers’ market, and you can stretch your budget by trying something new. I’ve discovered some terrific new foods at the farmers’ market, including garlic scapes, pea shoots (or tendrils), squash vines, and beet greens.
  4. Ask for advice. See something new? Ask the vendor about it. They can give you recipes and tell you what to expect. Ask vendors what they recommend. You can also ask about growing practices. Don’t be shy: Most farmers say that talking to customers is a big reason for attending farmers’ markets.
  5. Buy in season. While the first tomatoes and peppers of summer can be expensive, the prices tend to come down once they are abundant. Get an idea of what to expect with this availability chart.
  6. Go early for best selection. If you absolutely, positively have to have an item, go early to make sure it’s available. If you can plan ahead, ask a vendor if they are able to save a particular item for you the following week.
  7. Go late for best prices. If you’re flexible, you may be able to get a better price at the end of the day as the market it wrapping up.
  8. Budget for a splurge item. Set aside a few dollars for a treat: a fresh loaf of bread, the first summer tomato, or a cookie.
  9. Check in with the market. Look for the market manager’s tent and say hello. You find all kinds of information here, from recipes to upcoming events to vendor information. Ask if there’s a market newsletter, or if the market is active on Facebook or Twitter.
  10. Have fun! Farmers’ market shopping is a more social experience than supermarket shopping. Get to know the market vendors and enjoy spending some time outdoors.
Becky Prior is an enthusiastic supporter of the growing sustainable food movement. She a board member of the Belmont Food Collaborative, Inc., which hosts the award-winning Belmont Farmers’ Market, and her photography of local agriculture has been featured in the Massachusetts Agriculture Calendar.