Guest Author: Alison Jones, dietetic intern, University of Northern Colorado
I spent the past month spreading the word that 3SquaresVT benefits are accepted at over half the farmers’ markets in Vermont. When I began my work, I naively assumed that because people participating in 3SquaresVT are on a tight budget, the biggest selling point about using your benefits at markets would be the Harvest Health Coupons that provide 3SquaresVT participants additional dollars to spend at the market. I was so wrong. People gave me a hundred more reasons they want to use their 3SquaresVT benefits at markets, everything from supporting their local farmers to having the ability to price compare among multiple vendors.
While doing outreach at an emergency food shelf, I met a lovely family. They were clearly close-knit, working together to collect and carry their groceries. The children were full of smiles. The father told me that his favorite part of the day is dinnertime. He looks forward to coming home from work to share the evening meal together with his family. Dinner is important to him not because of the food, but because he enjoys eating with his family. He told me “It makes you feel good inside.” Another day, I met a family who had immigrated to the U.S. They told me about making their own baby food for their infant by pureeing fresh vegetables because it is healthier than store-bought. They emphatically told me that the only time their child eats store-bought baby food is when they travel and can't pack their blender.
These stories travel in the back of my head now when I do my outreach work. Getting extra coupons is certainly a selling point, but when I talk about shopping at farmers’ markets with 3SquaresVT benefits, I talk about it in terms of a chance to do something together with your family and get food that is fresh and healthy. These are just two of the values we place on food. And they don’t go away when we run out of money.
If you would like more information on how you can get extra money to spend at farmers’ markets when you use your 3SquaresVT benefits, including a list of participating markets, go to www.vermontfoodhelp.com