The local food movement has grown remarkably in the last decade. There are scores of farmers’ markets now, numbering over 7,800 in the U.S. alone at last count, which is almost double the 1994 tally; meanwhile, grocery stores and menus increasingly trumpet their local selections.
But lately, the movement has begun to hit a wall. For one thing, sales at farmers’ markets have not kept pace with the growth, as there are simply more farmers competing for the same pool of customers. What farmers and their allies increasingly need is a way to add value to their produce and increase its shelf life, places where they can cook or can fruits and vegetables, slaughter animals, process meat, and store products.
On October 22, at 7 p.m. Eastern/4 p.m. Pacific, join award-winning food writer Rowan Jacobsen and guests for a live conversation about food hubs, the facilities that house such services, which is the topic of Jacobsen’s feature in the November/December 2013 issue of Orion, “From Farm to Table.” The event is free to join, will be moderated by Orion staff, and is open to all readers and friends. Register here.
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I have two questions:
Why don’t more food hubs accept SNAP and WIC?
What was meant by “We need to focus more on what America wants rather than what America needs, and we need to find how sustainable food fits into those wants.” I know that is not a direct quote, but it really rubbed me the wrong way during the conversation yesterday. How we can focus on wants when needs are not being met by a vast number of our population? “Sustainable food” isn’t sustainable if it is inaccessible.
Thank you for posting these questions. If you are interested in learning more about the different food hub models (and who accepts SNAP/WIC) I would highly recommend that you check out this website: http://ngfn.org/resources/food-hubs/food-hubs.
A lot of food hubs DO NOT accept SNAP/WIC benefits because they are not selling through retail channels. E.G. the company where I work sells wholesale fresh foods to grocery stores, restaurants, etc. Another example from the article is the Mad River Food Hub, which is a shared processing/storage facility. We are not eligible to participate in SNAP & WIC.
Some of the food hubs that I know of who sell retail (e.g. Intervale Food Hub, Farm Fresh Rhode Island, etc.) have been early adopters and promoters of SNAP & WIC. Furthermore, there has been an exciting intersection of ‘food hubs’ and farmers markets/CSA’s around SNAP innovations, such as the double value incentive programs (http://wholesomewave.org/dvcp/).
If you notice farmers markets, grocery stores, food hubs, and other food outlets in your community who are NOT accepting SNAP, I would encourage you to ask them if they have considered adopting this service. These types of organizations often need technical and financial assistance enrolling in the programs and setting up the infrastructure (cell service, card readers, etc.). More and more states are offering this type of assistance through state SNAP, agriculture, and health agencies; agricultural advocacy groups; and community foundations.
In response to Kelly’s second question:
I think the quote refers to addressing what consumers are requesting through market demand (wants) rather than what the movement thinks consumers need.
There is a lot of room for discussion here as to the balance of meeting consumers’ expectations vs. encouraging consumers to hold different expectations for the marketplace. As the sustainable food movement grows, we are all forced to examine where our values are rigid and where they are flexible. An example of this is how to balance the perceived consumer demand for convenience (e.g. home delivered groceries, pre-cut produce, ready to eat meals) with values around direct marketing, eating whole foods, increasing organic acreage, improving farm viability, etc.
Of course, Kelly is right to point out that there is not just one market demand, rather “America” is made up of many different consumer segments with different needs and demands. I hope there is room in our movement to address these different communities with many different solutions.