Food Stamping the Green Markets

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More people are using food stamps at New York City Green Markets, as WNYC reported this morning. While there are different ways to present the findings, with some people all together critical of the claim because more New Yorkers (and Americans) are on food stamps in general these days, I can see the silver lining. And more important than the numbers released, I think it is a positive affirmation that norms can change, with time. Additionally, according to the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, the number of New Yorkers on food stamps has grown less than 200,000 since 2009. So, on the positive tip, we shall remain, with facts on our side.

The initiative to accept food stamps at Grow NYC markets began in 2007 and at that time, these transactions amounted to a few thousand dollars. By 2009, it was $251,000. In 2010 we were up to $505,000. And in 2011, $620,000 worth of food stamps was spent at participating Grow NYC markets. Note, there are other markets that accept food stamps that are not affiliated with Grow NYC. A map of them can be seen here.

Nationwide, low-income Americans spent about .01 of their foodstamps in Green Markets last year. GOOD has a nice map showing which states have signed on to make this type of transaction more convenient for their food consumers and they kindly outline which states continuously hold out. Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Utah, Virginia, and Wyoming.  I’d be interested in seeing  a map that highlights overlap between big agribusiness turf and the program deniers.  Even without a scientific assessment, I see a few potentially suspicious matches.

We still have a long way to go in getting fresh food to all Americans. But it took many steps for the food system to change, to the point where the Crop Life Association came out against Michelle Obama for declaring the White House Garden as organic. For some seriously mind-blowing reading, take a look at the association’s call to arms for a letter writing campaign to tell the First Lady that the garden should not be organic.  For a more in-depth discussion of that whole escapade, you can listen to Michael Pollan’s Illustrated Food Rules on the January 2nd, 2012 Leonard Lopate show.

Ultimately, every step taken to bring us to our current food system status quo, every bill signed, every food pyramid created, every subsidy awarded, every cultural norm established, will need to be replaced by steps in a different direction, supported by a vision to take us there. I’d like to think that $620,000 worth of food stamps spent at  Grow NYC markets in 2011 is one of those steps.    [image via year of plenty]