What’s your favorite kind of berry? Blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, or strawberries? I don’t think I could pick just one! Berries are usually a favorite for kids because they’re sweet, colorful, and perfectly bite-sized. Late spring and summer are when locally grown berries are available and most affordable. Fresh berries can be expensive when bought out of season, but I find that frozen berries work well for most uses and are affordable year-round. Continue reading
This morning I could definitely feel the hunger catching up to me! I was famished when I ate my scrambled eggs and toast with milk. This time, the meal didn’t quite satisfy me, and I was left thinking of ways I could have bought more food for my $32. One way, would be to purchase some of my food at a local farmers market, where they often match EBT funds to double your budget, so that overall you can buy twice as much food! Now I really wish I had done that this week…. I didn’t because I wanted to see if I could eat a good meal plan without having to use the bonus money from the farmers market. Now I see that it is possible, but I just don’t get as much to eat.
For last year’s National Farmers Market Week, we talked about why and how you should shop for fresh, local food at your neighborhood market. This year, I want to give a little bit of an update on how much the use of SNAP at farmers markets have grown and how FNP has expanded their work with markets across Virginia.
Growth of Farmers Markets in Virginia
Virginia is a big agriculture state, with over 46,000 farms producing $3.75 BILLION of products in 2012. (See more facts about Virginia’s Agricultural Industry here.) As farmers markets have grown in popularity, the number of farmers markets in Virginia has grown to over 250 markets across the state. In fact, Virginia ranks in the Top Ten nationwide for number of farmers markets in the state.
As the number of farmers markets has grown, more and more are accepting SNAP benefits. FNP’s Cooking Coach Meredith has been helping markets across the state get their EBT systems up and running in order to allow more people to access fresh, local foods at markets. Many markets also have formed Incentive Programs, which match SNAP benefits with additional funds for purchasing food, increasing the buying power of SNAP at the market.
In addition to helping more markets accept SNAP, FNP has increased programming at farmers markets with recipe demonstrations and nutrition education lessons. For the first time, FNP hired 6 students from Virginia Tech to offer these events at farmers markets in their hometowns. You can read more about their experiences here.
How You Can Celebrate National Farmers Market Week
- Visit your local farmers market! Let us know what delicious goodies you find in the comments.
- Read this article from University of Nebraska about finding good nutrition at the farmers market
- Share this post on social media using the buttons below.
This is an optional lesson used in Virginia to teach our clients how to use SNAP benefits at a farmers market.
Leaders Guide: Keeping local food affordable
To give you a better idea of the many ways that FNP helps people Eat Smart and Move More, I wanted to talk about one of our newer projects, the Food Security Program. Meredith has been working very hard over the last year and a half to increase SNAP recipients’ access to local foods. Partnering with the VA Department of Social Services, she has helped more farmers markets get EBT machines in order to accept SNAP benefits.
Some markets she has worked with match SNAP benefits with extra money, letting families to buy even more local food. For instance, at the Blacksburg Farmers Market, SNAP benefits are matched dollar for dollar, so if you take $5 from your EBT card, they will give you $10 to spend! Each market that has these SNAP matching programs works very hard to fund them through grants and fundraising. We applaud their dedication to ensuring everyone can eat the delicious bounty that is harvested in Virginia!
This program fits very nicely with another Virginia group’s project. The Virginia Food System Council is asking all Virginians to take the $10 a Week Pledge. If everyone in Virginia spent just $10 per week on local food, it would boost our economy by an estimated $1.65 BILLION a year. You can help your local community thrive, while eating fresh and tasty fruits, veggies, meat and eggs produced by your neighbors. What’s not to love? With the matching programs, the benefits of local, seasonal foods and the huge economic impact, the $10 a Week project is a WIN-WIN-WIN for all Virginians, even those who use SNAP.
That’s not all that Meredith does for FNP at Farmers Markets. She is also our head Cooking Coach, giving cooking demos at Farmers Markets. She has plenty of tasty recipes to share that use old favorites in new ways (Green Beans with Toasted Garlic) or simple ways to prepare new fruits or veggies found at the market (Delicata Squash with Walnuts). She and her helpers have been all across Virginia this summer, handing out samples of these recipes for people to try. So far, FNP’s Cooking Coaches have showed over 600 people shopping at their local farmers markets how to prepare low-cost produce in simple, tasty ways their families will love.
Since the harvest season is in full swing, make a plan to visit your local Farmers Market this week. You can find the market closest to you, as well as find out who accepts SNAP, using USDA’s Farmers Market Directory. If you are in Roanoke, stop by these upcoming FNP cooking demos
- August 1- Downtown Roanoke Farmers Market 12:00 pm – 2:00 pm
- August 13- West End Farmers Market 3:00 pm – 6:00 pm
- August 17- Vinton Farmers Market 10:30 am – 2:00 pm
Let us know if you run into one of our Cooking Coaches or what delicious local foods you buy at the market.