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40 Days of SNAP: The Best Food for All

Marie_at_farmers_market

Marie Crise is able to use her SNAP benefits to purchase fresh, healthy fruits and vegetables at the Abingdon Farmers Market in Abingdon, Va. Are we doing enough to ensure that everyone has access to nutritious, fresh food? (Laura Elizabeth Pohl)

The Herman family, members of the Presbyterian Church (USA) living in California's Central Valley, have decided to follow a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) food budget during Lent. They will be blogging about their journey and sharing their stories on the Bread Blog.

By Susan Herman

I’ve been a foodie since the late '90s, when the film Big Night came out, and Alton Brown started his TV show Good Eats. Ivan and I love to host BBQs and theme parties, planning and prepping for days beforehand. Bring on the Inauguration Day clam chowder, the King Cake, the Robert Burns Supper! Most recently I enjoyed a blogger cookie exchange with other local foodies, and really enjoyed myself.

But since taking the SNAP challenge, I’m surprised to feel anger welling up. Anger toward myself and toward my fellow foodies. Here’s why: we have a class bias. We aspire to eat the best food, but how many of us also truly aspire—and take action—for everyone to have access to the best food? Why do we allow such a gap to exist?

By “the best food” I’m not talking about lobster and caviar. I can’t afford and don’t really lust after those things. I’m talking mainly about fresh, local fruits and veggies, preferably those that are grown without chemicals. (Yes, there were a few fruits and vegetables featured in the theme parties I’ve listed above.)

And I’m talking about fish that are responsibly harvested, eggs from chickens that have room to roam (and chicken from chickens that have room to roam), beef and pork from cows and pigs that aren’t treated with hormones and producing swamps of toxic waste.

Stuart Leavenworth, editorial page editor for the Sacramento Bee, questioned in a recent Forum section whether Sacramento is ready to face the challenges of the “Farm to Fork” movement. He contrasted mayor Kevin Johnson’s plans to brand the city as a food destination with the reality that “most consumers purchase the cheapest food available, regardless of season.” Being a food destination will mean that more restaurants are serving locally-sourced foods and that events such as the Foodie Film Fest draw healthy numbers. And this will be a good thing, a positive challenge for Sacramento. But how can we also ensure that low-income people, particularly in this rich agricultural region, can buy and cook that fresh-from-the-farm good stuff?  Many area farmers markets are now able to swipe EBT cards and accept SNAP dollars, but, unfortunately, junk food still usually provides more calories for fewer dollars—and hungry people are often forced to choose quantity over quality.

I just waded through 330 typeset pages of unbridled wonkery—a book called All You Can Eat: How Hungry is America? by Joel Berg (2008, Seven Stories Press), which was recommended to me by a social worker friend. A great read. Toward the end, the author notes that some farm-to-fork advocates assert that increased food prices "are a good thing because they deter people from buying junk food.”

How do you answer that, friends? Is that class bias? Is it helpful?

Susan Herman is an independent editor and coordinates the Northern California chapter of the Editorial Freelancers Association.

 

« Lenten Reflections: The Poor Will Always Be With You? Food, Food Everywhere... »

Comments

Local outdoor food markets and organic farms are so popular and are known to increase buying traffic in the area for other vendors and businesses. So why do we find one of these for every 50 "normal" grocery stores? If local food production grew and we exposed more of the population to these quality foods then the prices would go down and then we just get more people interested.

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