Quick Bites: Fresh Access for Families
Helping low-income families buy healthier food while benefiting local food producers – that’s a win-win. Getting federal money to support those causes in our state? That’s a win-win-win.
Earlier this year, United States Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced that Florida Organic Growers (FOG), a non-profit organization that works to inform producers and consumers in the state about the benefits of organic and sustainable agriculture, was a recipient of a Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) grant. Part of the 2014 Farm Bill, FINI will provide $100 million over five years to help increase access to fruits and vegetables for low-income consumers.
At the ceremony announcing the award, Vilsack said the purpose of the grants is to encourage participants in SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) to buy more fruits and vegetables.
The initiative is “part of USDA’s ongoing commitment to improving the diet and health of all Americans,” Vilsack said at the event. “These creative community partnerships also benefit regional food producers and local economies along with SNAP participants.”
FOG received funding from the program for its Fresh Access Bucks program, which enables SNAP users to double their food dollars at participating farmers markets.
Among the 50 markets across the state
benefiting from the grant are three in
the Tampa Bay area: the Lakeland Downtown
Farmers Curb Market in Polk County,
St. Petersburg’s Saturday Morning Market
and Sweetwater Organic Community
Farm and Market in Tampa.
“Families eat more fruits and vegetables when they’re accessible and affordable and simply taste better than food shipped long distances,” said Carmen Franz, FOG Community Food Project Coordinator and manager of the FAB program.
“Shopping at farmers’ markets also strengthens the local economy as it keeps more money circulating in the community.”
FOG says that since the Fresh Access program’s inception in 2013 more than $200,000 has been generated in revenue for Florida-grown fruits and vegetables, with more than 150 Florida farmers participating and more than 3,000 new consumers shopping at markets.
For more information about Fresh Access Bucks and Florida Organic Growers, please visit foginfo.org.
Nature’s Food Patch bills itself as a “community grocery store” with a vision to “serve and inspire our community in order to build a healthier world.” So it’s no surprise the Clearwater grocer does more than sell food – it serves up classes and seminars to educate patrons on healthy eating as well. With the addition of its Patch Works Community Room approximately a year ago, the classes and seminars have a home that doesn’t crowd participants or interfere with the busy store’s shoppers.
There are regular classes – on healthy cooking and permaculture gardening, for example – as well as special sessions. The August lineup included a lesson from Brad Myers (vegabondchef.com) on how to make raw tacos, a discussion, demonstration and tasting of fermented foods, and a knife skills workshop, as well as non-food related events like a kids’ clothes swap just in time for back-to-school.
It’s an extension of the store’s mission that also serves them well … after all, you’ll need to get the ingredients for those newly learned recipes somewhere!
Nature’s Food Patch, 1225 Cleveland St., Clearwater, 727-443-6703, naturesfoodpatch.com. The Patch Works Community Room is also available for private rentals for up to 50 people; application on the Nature’s Food Patch website.
BE A PART OF A MOVEMENT IN THE MAKING
The second annual Florida Local Food Summit is slated for September 18 through 20 in Gainesville.
The summit – hosted by Florida Organic Growers, East End Market and Local Roots Distribution – is an opportunity for the state’s farmers, food entrepreneurs, consumers and policy makers to come together to grow Florida’s local food movement. Coursework and hands-on educational workshops on topics such as how to acquire organic certification, humane animal husbandry, and marketing and sales for small producers are planned, with Dr. David Shields, author of Southern
Provisions: the Creation and Revival of a Cuisine serving as the keynote speaker.
Visit floridafoodsummit.com for more information and to register to attend.
Florida Local Food Summit, September 18-20, Gainesville, floridafoodsummit.com.