SNAP at the USDA Farmers’ Market
By: Erica Christensen, Farmers’ Market Manager
On June 7, DC Greens began an exciting new partnership with the USDA Farmers’ Market to make SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program formerly known as “food stamps”) available at market. As part our Farmers’ Market Incentive Program, SNAP shoppers are able to receive up to an additional $10 in Bonus Dollars to spend at market. Located one block from the National Mall at the intersection of Independence Avenue and 12th Street, SW, the market is uniquely situated to service a wide array of customers that include government employees and tourists from all around the world! This has provided us with an exciting opportunity to both educate market goers on how to use Federal benefits at market and how DC Green is working in the community to make food more accessible for people in the District.
In mid-August, the market will host a SNAP Education Day with local representatives from the Food Nutrition Service and nonprofit, DC Hunger Solutions. During the day, customers can get more information on how to use Federal benefits at market, how the SNAP program works, find out if they qualify and get all of their questions answered. For more information on this program, please contact SNAP Manager, Erica Christensen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo taken by Gus Schumacher at the Mount Pleasant Farmers’ Market
Local Groups Applaud D.C. Council for Strengthening Farmers’ Market Nutrition Incentive Programs
More Low-income Residents will have Access to Healthier Foods
The D.C. Farmers Market Collaborative (FMC) and DC Greens applaud the D.C. Council and Councilmembers Mary Cheh, Jack Evans, and Yvette Alexander for championing the city’s allocation of $200,000 in local funds to expand and strengthen farmers’ market nutrition incentive programs.
With the passage of the Fiscal Year 2014 budget, D.C. joins other major cities, including New York, Los Angeles, and Boston, in dedicating local funding for “bonus bucks” to increase food access at farmers’ markets for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as Food Stamps), WIC (Women, Infants and Children), and Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) recipients.
Thousands of additional low-income residents will be able to increase the value of their federal nutrition assistance dollars at farmers’ markets throughout the District. Beginning spring 2014, a SNAP recipient who redeems $5 of benefits can purchase $10 worth of fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables at participating farmers’ markets. “This investment will help residents struggling to purchase more healthy foods on a tight budget,” said Alex Ashbrook, director of D.C. Hunger Solutions, the organization that convenes the FMC. “We applaud the D.C. Council for funding these programs that help low-income residents access nutritious foods.”
According to a report published by the Food Research and Action Center with data collected from Gallup, more than one in seven households in Washington D.C. struggled to afford enough food in 2012.
“This is a landmark moment for individual and community health in the District,” said Lauren Shweder Biel, Executive Director of D.C. Greens and a member of the FMC. “We are so grateful that the D.C. Council has emerged as a strong partner in our collective efforts to get healthy food into people’s hands and onto their plates.”
Farmers’ market nutrition incentive programs have the potential to shift the eating habits of D.C. residents by expanding the amount of local and nutritious produce low-income residents are able to access. The incentive programs also strengthen the local economy by directing city dollars to local farmers and the markets that support them.
“This money will leverage the District’s existing farmers’ market infrastructure to play a greater role in healing the city’s health crisis. We sincerely thank and commend D.C. City Council for spearheading this citywide investment,” said Biel.
The D.C. Farmers’ Market Collaborative is convened by D.C. Hunger Solutions. Since 2007, this body of representatives from farmers’ markets and anti-hunger organizations has promoted the benefits of farmers’ markets and implemented strategies to increase market capacity to serve low-income communities. The Collaborative includes, among others: Bloomingdale Farmers Market, Columbia Heights Community Marketplace, Glover Park-Burleith Farmers Market, 14&U Farmers Market, FreshFarm Markets, Mount Pleasant Farmers’ Market, Petworth Community Market, Rose Park Farmers Market, PCDC Edgewood Farmers Market and the Ward 8 Farmers’ Market.
D.C. Hunger Solutions, an initiative of the Food Research and Action Center, is dedicated to ending hunger and improving the nutrition, health, and well-being of low-income people in the District of Columbia.
Maggie Gyllenhaal Joins DC Greens’ Advisory Board
Maggie Gyllenhaal with DC Greens Executive Director, Lauren Shweder Biel
DC Greens, a local nonprofit that connects communities to healthy food in the District, is pleased to welcome actress, Maggie Gyllenhaal to their advisory board. Gyllenhaal made the announcement at a private event Monday evening at the home of Ann and Don Brown cohosted by Shelley and Allan Holt. “We are thrilled and honored to have Maggie join our advisory board,” said Lauren Shweder Biel, Executive Director of DC Greens. “Maggie has become a strong alley in raising awareness about our work on food access and education as we strive to improve individual and community health in the District.”
Gyllenhaal earned her first Oscar nod in 2009 for her work in Crazy Heart. She received two Golden Globe nominations for Secretary and Sherrybaby and is perhaps best known for her role in 2008 in The Dark Knight. Gyllenhaal stars in White House Down, a thriller set in the District of Columbia, which premieres later this month. She is a graduate of Columbia University where she studied Literature and has been very active with Partners in Health and Witness. Recently she appeared in a public service announcement as part of the End Hunger campaign for the Food Bank For New York City.
Through education and access, DC Greens bridges the gaps in our local food system to ensure that all residents of the District have a deeper connection to the sources of their food and can afford fresh, local fruit and vegetables. DC Greens supports school gardens in every ward of the city, manages farmers’ market incentive programs for low-income residents, runs a Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program, and connects the cafeteria to the classroom with “farm to school” programs across the District.
“DC Greens is a leader in the D.C. food movement and is steadily becoming a model for other programs across the country,” said Ms. Gyllenhaal. “I am so impressed with the impact that they’re having in D.C. and excited for this opportunity to get involved.”
Enthusiasm, curiosity, and school garden harvests = a recipe for success!
By: Catherine Kling Nourse, Dietetic Intern
Student enjoying the “veggies” of her labor.
During the first two weeks of May I had the opportunity to share with students, school garden coordinators and teachers select recipes from DC Greens’ F(un)-cook Book. And with a cup of enthusiasm, a pinch of curiosity and some tasty, nutritious spring harvest veggies, 131 students prepared, sampled and evaluated their Spinach Smoothies, Mango Radish Salsa, and Swiss chard Wraps. As a dietetic intern for DC Greens, I was assigned a two-part task: create a cook book that featured school garden harvest items and develop recipe demonstration sessions to accompany it. Needless to say, I enjoyed this assignment immensely as it allowed me to utilize my nutrition knowledge and facilitation skills while I learned about DC school garden products and their seasonal harvests. I designed the F(un)-cook Book to showcase the fresh, raw nature of the foods that are grown in school gardens, hence the title “un-cook” book. The recipes were written as interactive (but quick) ways for folks to work together, a guide, not an absolute, so that creativity in the kitchen (and on the plate) is welcomed. Most recipes utilize 5 to 6 ingredients, including the featured harvest item. Each recipe includes the basic ingredients, supply/equipment list and step-by-step directions. The food demos included engaging nutrition education highlighting the featured harvest product, as well as time to prepare and sample the recipe. Students (and teachers and school garden coordinators) actively participated in the preparation and tasting processes and really enjoyed their fruits (and veggies) of their labor.
See photos from the F(un)-cook book tour and check out recipes from the book!
What Makes a Farm to School Field Trip?
By: Karissa McCarthy, Farm to School Coordinator
Students touch, taste, and investigate during farm field trips.
Where can you find kindergartners speaking eloquently on pollination and first graders eagerly tasting sorrel? On a farm field trip! This week I had the pleasure of joining two elementary groups at Common Good City Farm and Washington Youth Garden. Working through stations, field trip-goers explored decomposition at the compost piles, played games on pollination, weeded lettuce beds, toured, tasted and touched spring plants, and investigated for insects.
Aside from wanting to enjoy the sunshine and greenery, I came to observe from some of the best what makes a field trip a fantastic farm to school experience. In all of our farm to school work, we operate knowing that experiential opportunities to connect with the growing process are central to cultivating kids’ palates for local produce. We consistently see that “multi-sensory” interaction with familiar and new foods alike creates a willingness to try fresh produce. Engagement through the school garden, a classroom lesson on nutrition, a taste-testing in the cafeteria, and of course a local farm visit all help to develop the story of food from seed to table (or cafeteria tray!).
As DC Greens continue to encourage District teachers to engage their students in farm-based learning, we are developing an assessment tool to aid their search for knock out programs. By learning from some of the best farm sites in and around the District we’ve designing a rubric to measure field trip programs as successful farm to school experiences. Our final goal – a farm to school field trip guide with one-pagers, video trailers, and reviews available for teachers on our website.
So what have we found so far? A farm to school field trip:
– actively engages students in hands-on learning (planting, harvesting, tasting, touching, smelling);
– exposes students to a wide variety or plant and animal species;
– is an extension of the classroom, rooted in educational standards;
– draws the connection between the food we consume and growing plants;
– and provides opportunities for extension post visit.
Next on my field trip list – Hard Bargain Farm, Clagett Farm, and Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food and Agriculture. Stay tuned!
First Round of Focus Groups
By: Jezra Thompson, Food Access Director
Image association exercise with our farmers’ market focus group.
Last week, DC Greens hosted three focus groups at Martha’s Table to better understand how farmers markets can draw in more federal benefits into the small farm and local economy here in the District. We invited several people from across the city – some who received food assistance, others who didn’t, some who have children, and those that didn’t, and so forth – in an attempt to listen to the voices representative not only of the nation’s capital, but of those who aren’t regularly utilizing farmers markets. We wanted to begin to know more about how the farmers market incentive projects we manage at Bloomingdale, 14th & U, Mount Pleasant, and Glover Park-Burleith, can invite more customers using their food assistance benefits (SNAP/food stamps, WIC and Senior farmers market nutrition benefit checks).
Though the dollar amount of SNAP spent at D.C. farmers markets has increased every year (in 2012 it increased to $34,967 from $18,000 the year before), about $229 million in SNAP benefits are spent in D.C. alone, though most are spent at grocery stores or corner stores. This means that every year we’re improving upon how the farmers’ market community is getting the message across and more people are enjoying farmers markets. However, the amount of benefits spent at farmers markets is still very low, often only representing about 5% of sales. There’s potential within these numbers to bring in more federal dollars into the District, especially since several USDA studies say that every $1 spent in SNAP at a farmers market generates an extra $1.79 in local economic development.
One in five D.C. residents benefit from the SNAP program, and still many families continue to struggle to put enough food on their table. Our farmers market incentive project matches federal benefits spent at these four farmers markets by $10 for every $10 spent in federal benefits. This is a huge help to those families, as well as the farmers vending at these farmers markets, because these extra dollars are placed straight into their pockets. In order for this to happen more often, we need to finesse our message and get to know all of the farmers market customers, new and returning. We want to know what excites them about a community space, how they shop for groceries and what kinds of foods they like to eat. We also want to know more about the barriers many folks face when they try to access farmers markets, how people find out about incentive programs or other similar benefits, and how farmers markets can be useful public spaces enjoyed by everyone.
These are the very questions that brought us all to the table for our first round of focus groups. The information we gleaned from these conversations will guide us in the design of a unique outreach plan that can work with the different cultural landscapes and neighborhood associations in the communities in which we serve. It will also help us draw in more customers and increase federal benefit redemptions at all DC farmers markets. We greatly appreciated everyone’s time and contribution, and especially Martha’s Table for supporting and housing us during these three days of intense working groups. We look forward to continuing these discussions as we move into and through another great farmers market season and begin to plan for additional rounds of focus groups.