September is one of the best months in Michigan’s growing season. Summer produce still abounds and the first of the fall crops start making their entrance (hello, winter squash!). Farm stands and farmers market stalls are a sight to be seen as they burst with the season’s abundance.
As you plan your peak season purchases, take a moment to also consider the people who may not have access to the season’s bounty. It’s powerful that, coinciding with peak farm abundance, September is also National Hunger Action Month.
According to Feeding America, 42 million people and 13 million children may face hunger this year. In Michigan, 14.2% of our neighbors (1.4 million people) are food insecure – meaning they lack consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life. This number has only been exacerbated by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
It is well known that food insecurity can contribute to chronic health problems (hypertension, diabetes, etc.), decreased immune system function, and general overall poor health. To address this, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)- a federal food assistance program – provides benefits to help people fill their fridges. Over 1.2 million Michiganders receive SNAP benefits each year to buy groceries at select farms, farmers markets, grocers, and corner stores. Participation in SNAP has been shown to reduce food insecurity by up to 30% and greatly improve overall health outcomes.
In Michigan, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, Michigan Farmers Market Association, and others have supported a range of projects to increase the ability to use SNAP benefits at farmers markets and directly with farmers. This means that Michiganders receiving SNAP can use their benefits to purchase a wide variety of fresh, healthy local fruits, vegetables, meat, eggs, dairy products, bread, and maple syrup. SNAP benefits can even be used to buy seeds and food producing plants to establish a vegetable garden.
Today, there are 156 farmers markets and 111 farms across the state that accept SNAP benefits. In Southeast Michigan, six of these farmers markets and farms are furthering their commitment to community food security through the Fresh Food Box project. This project links farms and farmers that accept SNAP with SNAP customers in their community.
Read on to learn more about the sites participating in this year’s pilot.
Old City Acres
Alex Ball started Old City Acres after finishing high school to address the lack of fresh food access in his community. Now in its ninth season, Old City Acres sells a variety of crops grown following organic and no-till farming methods. Anyone with or without SNAP benefits can access Old City Acres produce through their CSA, at the downtown Ypsilanti Farmers Market (Saturdays) or at the farm.
A project of Growing Hope and The Farm at St. Joe’s, the Ypsi Area Online Market is a virtual farmers market providing access to a wide variety of products from area farmers and food producers. The market accepts EBT/SNAP and Double Up Food Bucks (along with credit and debit cards) and shoppers can pick up orders at the Ypsilanti Farmers Marketplace (Tuesday) or The Farm at St. Joe’s (Wednesday).
Formed as a cooperative in 2012, City Commons is made up of seven member farms from across the city of Detroit. These farms collaborate to operate a multi-farm CSA and online store filled with produce grown without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers or GMOs. SNAP customers can place their orders online for Tuesday pick up at Villekula Flora.
Melodee Beals and her husband left corporate jobs in 2015 to grow fresh, chemical free food for families in their community. Today, they raise produce, meat, and eggs which are available through their CSA program. SNAP customers in Macomb, Oakland, St. Clair, and Wayne Counties can sign up to pick up their CSA from the farm or have it delivered to their doorstep.
Dazmonique Carr started Deeply Rooted Produce while she was a student at Wayne State University. Time volunteering with Keep Growing Detroit inspired her awareness of urban gardening and her desire to increase access to local, healthy food on campus. Today, Deeply Rooted Produce has evolved to offer CSA produce boxes that are delivered to customers’ doorsteps. SNAP/EBT is accepted.
Keep Growing Detroit promotes food sovereignty within the city of Detroit by supporting Detroiters to engage in food gardening and providing a low-barrier opportunity for growers to sell their produce. They operate a farm stand at Eastern Market, a CSA program and an online store where folks can purchase Grown in Detroit produce using a variety of payment methods, including SNAP/EBT and Double Up Food Bucks.
Main photo credit: Deeply Rooted Produce
Kelly Wilson, RDN, is the Director of Community Partners for Taste the Local Difference. Contact her at [email protected]
You can find other farms and farmers markets that accept food assistance benefits at localdifference.org/find-local-food