by Sister Kathy Curtis
The summer of 2014 saw a great opportunity for low income residents of Floyd County, Kentucky when Appalachian Roots became a SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) agent for the Floyd County Farmers’ Market. Due to a grant from Community Farm Alliance and matching funds donated by individuals and local businesses, families who received SNAP benefits were able to leverage their benefits with the Double Dollars program to buy fresh food.
James and Jennifer Lowe were the first Floyd County Farmers’ Market customers to take advantage of this opportunity. I talked to them recently while they were visiting the monastery to celebrate their 14th wedding anniversary.
The Lowes live in a housing authority development in Prestonsburg. James worked full time delivering pizzas until he was diagnosed with LUPUS. When able, he does odd jobs to supplement his disability check. Jennifer is scheduled to start training as a housekeeper with vocational rehab in the spring. Already farmers’ market customers, they were very excited to be able to use their SNAP card and get a bonus. “It helps a lot.”
Using SNAP at the market was easy James said. “I scanned my card for what I wanted to spend and they gave me double. When I would spend $10 they would give me $20.” His favorite items to buy were corn and white half-runner beans but he also liked getting tomatoes and zucchini bread.
I asked them if they grew anything at home and was told they couldn’t have a garden in their complex. James said that working a garden was hard work and he didn’t know that he could do it anymore, which was why he really liked going to the farmers market.
While talking with them, I realized the need for more public education. James said one time he went to the market to get “fresh lettuce to make some kilt lettuce and onions but they didn’t have any”. I explained how the farmers market was a vendors market selling produce that was grown locally and that lettuce didn’t grow well in our area in August. That led into a very good conversation about what the phrase “locally grown” meant and how some large companies have a different idea when they say it in their advertising.
James and Jennifer only used their SNAP benefits at the Floyd County Farmers’ Market this year but more than 146 families redeemed WIC vouchers they received from the health department at the Market which were doubled also. These SNAP and WIC sales represented $3585 worth of income that went directly to our vendors from clients that would not normally buy from a farmers market. And in the words of James Lowe, “It helps a lot.”
Programs like Double Dollars help low income families purchase healthier meal options which in turn provide for a healthier populace. In a region where diabetes and obesity are epidemic, fresh, whole food not only tastes better, it can be life saving.
- – Learn more about Community Farm Alliance’s Farmers Market Support Program.