Huge Victory for Families, Local Farmers

We were thrilled to hear that the Obama administration will be expanding access to fresh healthy food for low-income families. Last fall, thousands of you joined us in calling on the administration to boost local economies and support American farmers. And we did it! Today, USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan announced that the agency will greatly increase the number of farmers markets participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which provides food benefits to low-income Americans. As a result, thousands of families will be able to find more fresh fruits and vegetables and healthy food. Traditionally, federal food assistance has focused on non-perishable products found on grocery store shelves. But reliance on this type of food—which is often processed and loaded with fat and sugar—leads to health problems like diabetes among low-income kids. USDA’s Merrigan emphasized that contrary to popular belief, fresh local produce is not just for the wealthy and elite. “We see farmers markets all over the country,” she said. “They don’t only crop up in high-income areas.” One of the biggest hurdles to expanding access to fresh produce has been a technology problem: USDA normally provides grocery stores and retailers with free EBT machines which allow people to pay for food from a SNAP account. But the system only works if sellers have access to a phone line and electricity—which most farm stands and farmers markets don’t. Now the USDA has committed to solving that problem by providing more resources to removing this barrier—a huge step towards connecting struggling families with healthy food. By expanding access to farm stands and produce markets, the USDA is also helping support American farmers, and is putting dollars in the pockets of local businesses. The announcement is a win for farmers, a win for families, and a win for local economies.

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