Good and Clean becomes more Fair for everyone
By Janette Wesley, Slow Food Upstate Chapter Leader
After a long and detailed application process with completion of a required training session, the Slow Food Upstate Board who manages the Earth Market Greenville, celebrates the approved EBT status in June of 2012 and will be able to accept EBT or SNAP benefits, formerly known as food stamps, as payment for food products, (also plants and seeds that bear food), an essential part of the goals in the philosophy of "Good, Clean and Fair" food.
E.B.T.-Electronic Benefits Transfer, the newer version of food stamps, is an electronic system in the United States funded by the Federal Government, which allows government's states benefits departments to issue money, accessible via a plastic debit card or a paper voucher in exchange for food or seeds and plants which produce food. Items such as beer, wine, liquor, cigarettes or tobacco, pet food, soap and paper products, vitamins and medicine or hot pre-prepared foods are not redeemable with these benefits. Food benefits are distributed through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to applicants through their local state agencies, for example in South Carolina, the Department of Social Services issues the cards.
The EBT SNAP program is funded by the USA Farm Bill, a complicated piece of legislature, which Slow Food USA has worked diligently to keep its members constantly updated. The current blog speaks of the most recent passage in the Senate, and Slow Food Upstate as well as many other Slow Food chapters across the USA and other organizations like the National Sustainable Agriculture Organization have kept in touch with their members to remind them to contact their Senators and Representatives to help foster a more socially just food system. The latest passage by the Senate preserves 99.5% of the SNAP budget, yet the upcoming House of Representatives proposal would cut the benefits by at least 25%.
The Senate passage included "Hunger-Free Community Incentive Grants" aimed at increasing fruit and vegetable purchases by SNAP customers at farmers' markets for $20 million a year, and also provided an amendment to permit SNAP redemption by Community Supported Agriculture (CSA's). Although there is division as always between political parties, it is important to focus on positive efforts like these which help to support the most at risk in the nation, but also that helps support practical food business for the small and midsized food producers.
There are over 7,100 farmers markets across the USA but only 1500 of them have the capacity to accept EBT, data the Fair Food Network and Wholesome Wave organization are working to change. Although the application process is very thorough, and correctly so, there is ample help to make the EBT program successful. The USDA offers many grant opportunities, and the state of South Carolina supplies the required Point of Sale machine through an approved agency, a device that can cost upwards of $500.00, because the United States Department of Agriculture, or USDA "granted $4 million in funding to expand EBT capacity at Farmers' Markets" across the nation. However, a small detail to consider, the machines which swipe the cards work only on a wired telephone line, and at most farmers' markets there is no way to access a wired telephone. Fortunately, the system allows still for credit to be checked via cell phone, then, paper vouchers to be issued, with the hard wired work processed later in the day when returning to the office. There is a USDA booklet especially designed to help farmers markets succeed with EBT sales, and the FNS has done extensive studies on the feasibility of EBT at farmers markets with their study available to the public, a helpful aid for any farmers' market manager.
The South Carolina Department of Social Services is the agency to which persons in our state apply to receive the EBT benefits, and the agency takes in to account the applicants level of income, age, (for example persons over 60 living in the household), childcare expenses, rent, mortgage or other housing expenses, and if anyone in the household would be disabled.
"SNAP touches the lives of one in seven Americans" and in "2010, SNAP provided $1.3 billion dollars in food benefits to a monthly average of over 797,110 people in South Carolina" alone. "SNAP also has an economic multiplier effect with every $5.00 in new SNAP benefits generating as much as $9.00 in total economic activity." -The USDA Data from the USDA shows that, as of February 2012, 46.3 million Americans were enrolled in SNAP - an increase of 4.8% from the previous year.
According to the U.S.D.A. Food and Nutrition Service Office of Research and Analysis, in 2010, District 4 (the most immediate area in the surrounding the Earth Market Greenville, there were 25, 987 households receiving SNAP benefits, versus 263, 449 households who did not receive SNAP. From the households who do receive the benefits, 25% had someone over 60 years old, and over 55% had children under age 18, with the below poverty level status at 59.9%.
"The United States Department of Agriculture and The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) is seeking innovative ways to promote the consumption of healthy foods, especially fresh fruits and vegetables, among Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) clients. One of these initiatives involves increasing client access to farmers markets. Over the past few years, the number of farmers markets that are SNAP-authorized has risen along with the amount of benefits redeemed at farmers markets." - The USDA
A summary of these numbers add up to creating a good, clean and fair Earth Market for both the producer and the consumer, as EBT funds will be spent with farmers and food producers who work in amazing ways to keep the earth clean and vibrant. This is a positive and exciting element of the Earth Market Greenville that Slow Food Upstate will promote by placing posters around Greenville and the surrounding areas, thanks to the help of our interns.
Slow Food Upstate has had requests from potential consumers for EBT access at the Earth Market and is in high spirits to offer this service to Earth Market shoppers and their families. A major part of the Slow Food philosophy is that good, clean food be available fairly to everyone. Accepting EBT is a great benefit not only to EBT card holders, but to the food producers as well, and it is Slow Food Upstate's goal to help the approved producers succeed with increased sales.
Above all, it is Slow Food Upstate's mission to focus on education at the market, helping folks understand more about the food they are purchasing, from where it comes, how it is produced in an earth sustaining manner, and hopes to give shoppers more than they expected with very special Ark of Taste products and workshops for both children and adults in taste education and how to use diverse farm products. Slow Food Upstate also features "Buy an Extra Helping for the Hungry" a food collection basket so that everyone can give something extra and at the close of the day, these products donated by shoppers and producers alike are taken to a local soup kitchen.
"We believe that food is a universal right. Food that is fair should be accessible to all, regardless of income, and produced by people who are treated with dignity and justly compensated for their labor." - Slow Food USA
The Earth Markets Network is the physical representation of Slow Food's philosophy "Plate to Planet" and addresses all of Slow Food's missions in that the markets...
Raise public awareness, improving access and encouraging the enjoyment of foods that are local, seasonal and sustainably grown
Care for the land and protect biodiversity for today's communities and future generations
Perform educational outreach within their communities and working with children through public programs
Identifies, promotes and protects fruits, vegetables, grains, animal breeds, wild foods and cooking traditions at risk of disappearance
Advocates for farmers and artisans who grow, produce, market, prepare and serve wholesome food
Promotes the celebration of food as a cornerstone of pleasure, culture and community
Earth Markets seek a lasting change in the social, economic, and environmental aspects of the food system. Everyone loves to eat good food. Earth Markets are for everyone.
Earth Market Greenville, Third Thursdays May-September 3-7 pm and holiday markets in November and December 10am-1 pm 741 Rutherford Rd. Greenville, SC 29609
Workshops for adults and children posted on the calendar, www.slowfoodupstate.com
www.slowfoodusa.org http://www.slowfoodusa.org/index.php/programs/details/ark_of_taste/ http://www.slowfoodusa.org/index.php/slow_food/from_plate_to_planet/