Many people earning poverty wages have a difficult time purchasing fresh produce, but that is all changing with a Washington, D.C. program that gives people $10 vouchers to use at their local farmers’ market which are only good for fruit and vegetables.
There are currently 17 million children living in households deemed food challenged, and these are the very households that find it difficult to eat nutritiously on low incomes. Alex Williamson is one of those children, and though he looks on the lesser side of food insecure, his mom finds it a challenge to feed him healthy foods.
Connie Williamson explains:
“When he gets up on his own, he’ll go find what he wants,” she says. “He’ll get a hot dog bun, or get a piece of bread. He’ll get an ice pop or something.”
And that’s exactly what he did early one morning before his family headed out to the local food pantry. Alex ate a blue ice pop for breakfast. This is not an uncommon phenomenon in households across America.
Williamson explains that it isn’t so easy to eat right on a tight budget.
She spends hours driving around each month looking for deals on healthy food. She has to stretch $600 in food stamps for herself, her husband, Alex, and two teenage girls.
“You can get leaner cuts of meat, but then they’re more expensive,” she says. “You can get fresh fruit every couple of days and blow half of your budget on fresh fruits and vegetables in a week’s time, easy.”
The Washington, D.C. program could change these eating habits, which are helping to fuel an obesity epidemic like this country has never seen.
Another low income woman, Beatrice Evans learned about the Produce Plus Program when another bus passenger asked her why she didn’t stop at one of the city’s 45 farmers’ markets on the way to work one day. With the program she is allowed two $5 vouchers every day which allow her to purchase produce, and only produce all summer long.
Evans started taking advantage of the program to purchase bags of cucumbers, collard greens, squash and other vegetables that she normally couldn’t afford. Some farmers’ markets are even doubling the value of the vouchers to help support the food-challenged. It’s a popular program, but it ran out of funding at the end of the summer of last year, and had to look for money elsewhere.
“We’ve got lines around the block starting a half-hour before the market, in the heat of August,” says Lauren Shweder Biel, executive director of the nonprofit DC Greens, which hopes to see the program expand beyond the city’s $450,000 budget for 2016.
Being financially insecure, after all, shouldn’t also mean you have to suffer from poor health, too.
Featured image from CivilEats