The last session of the day was on Community Food Access. I would have left early if I wasn’t so interested in hearing this session. Here are the panelists and their topics:
WIC and Food stamps at Farmer’s Markets by Andrew Smiley from Sustainable Food Center
Farm-to School Programs by Texas Department of Agriculture
Raising Food at Home by Sari Albornoz from Sustainable Food Center
Andrew gave some basics about the WIC, WIC Farmer’s Market Nutrition Program (FMNP), and SNAP (food stamps) programs. When the food stamp program switched from actual stamps to a swipe card it meant that people were no longer able to use their food stamp income to purchase fruits and vegetables from Farmer’s Markets. Sustainable Food Center has found a way for farmer’s markets to accept the swipe cards without it being a burden for each individual vendor. There’s also the WIC FMNP program that gives supplemental income for people to spend during the peak summer season on fresh fruits and vegetables.
I feel like this is an area where a lot of farmer’s don’t make the leap. Many have a conservative understanding of poverty and got into organic and sustainable farming for environmental reasons or better farming practices. For many of them they see their farming primarily as a business and I wonder how many make the connection with food access, poverty, hunger and obesity.
As the speaker from Texas Department of Agriculture shared about the connection between hunger and obesity, someone at my table said, “That’s why they’re hungry!” It seems their is a gap in understanding between the farmers that produce the kinds of food we want people in poverty to have access to and the reality on the ground. The reality is that hunger and obesity can exist in the same household and within the same person. This is because people who are food insecure are forced to get the most possible calories per dollar when they do have money. I mentioned previously at the USDA listening session someone from the Texas Food Banks Network pointed out that an organic apple costs $1.75 while a bag of cheese puffs costs $1.50. If you are food insecure and only have $2 in your pocket which one would you buy?
Sari from SFC shared about issues concerning community gardening, how to start them and legal issues and city ordinances. There were helpful ideas about securing land and working with cities to include community gardening in their long-range plans for the city.
I have mixed feelings about having to navigate bureaucracies to get things done. On the one hand, I say you should just put seeds in the ground and grow your own food as a way to subvert the system and stick it to the man. I also recognize that the man can help make it possible to stick your seeds in the same place all the time and build a community within a city that is supportive of gardening and farming programs in neighborhoods and schools. Hopefully someday guerrilla gardening will be nothing more than a hobby, because the Powers that be will come around to the dark side (that is the side with the darkest soil… Booyah!)
And I’m spent…