Local For All
April 2nd, 2011 - By Therese Madden
Some people think of the Buy Fresh Buy Local movement is a luxury for the well-off, but organizations around the country are changing this — even right here in Philadelphia.
In the past 5 years we've been hearing a lot about eating locally. In fact in 2007, "locavore" was named the word of the year by the Oxford English Dictionary. But not everyone's doing it. Here are the two most common reasons I hear.
"It's just not convenient…"
"It's too expensive!"
But, these issues are being addressed. One way is through incentive programs for people receiving SNAP benefits — the current term for food stamps. These programs are being implemented around the country. Philadelphia based non-profit Fair Food calls their incentive program Double Dollars. Executive Director Ann Karlen explains, "the way double dollars works is if you are coming to shop at our farm stand and you're buying groceries using SNAP we will match you dollar for dollar, up to $20 a week. So if you come and spend $5 we will give you a $5 coupon to buy more groceries at our farm stand."
The Fair Food Farm Stand is in the Reading Terminal Market. The small stall resembles an old timey grocery store, in addition to produce, there's a dairy case and meats — along with a sprinkling of prepared foods — everything is local.
The Reading Terminal Market is many things to many people. Tourists come for the Amish vendors and the cheesesteaks, businessmen for a quick lunch and a shoe shine, but there are also a lot of people who come to buy groceries, including a lot of people using SNAP. Ann Karlen explains, "the Reading Terminal Market is the largest redeemer of food stamps in the state of Pennsylvania." It was learning this fact that made Karlen determined to give incentives to SNAP users to shop at the Fair Food Farm Stand. Double Dollars user Alison Rosa Clark says, "when double dollars came into the picture I was like oh! O.K.!, I can eat well."
Clark has made eating fresh and local a priority for at least 3 decades, but she says in recent years it had become more difficult. "I was working, I had my own business, for 25 years I had my own business, and when the recession tanked in 2008-2009 I lost most of my business. I lost practically all of it. So, I was forced to make some serious changes." Before the Double Dollars program Clark says it was possible to make healthy choices on a limited income, and says the key was planning. She also admits to another tactic, one that worked fine for her, "well I just ate less."
But for someone with children this could be a problem. To reach more families the Double Dollars Program Coordinator, Misha Baker goes to Head Start Programs, churches, and schools and tells them about doubling their dollars for local food. Baker hopes these presentations are effective, "because I think food like this should be available to everybody, I don't think it should be a niche market by any means, it's healthier for you, it's helping your region. I think those are two of the best reasons why people should shop locally."
Double Dollars is financed through private philanthropy and the state Department of Welfare. Double Dollars started in October, and 300 people have signed up so far…