Thursday, August 27, 2009

Food Stamps and Farmer's Markets!

Today I will digress a little from my usual topic, but I thought this was definitely worth mentioning.
Food stamps. Up until recently, I didn't really know they existed. Nobody in my family ever had them. I might have had some friends whose families used food stamps, but it never came up in casual conversation. Sort of a taboo subject, generally speaking... However, things have changed for me. As a VISTA, I make poverty level income, and due to certain job stipulations I automatically qualify for food stamps. And so here I am, a food stamp recipient! I have, technically, a government job, and on top of that, I also have assistance from the government.
I am not the only person who is new to this situation. Many more people, due to the current economy, are on food stamps who did not used to be. It's easy for me, because I only have to buy food for myself, but at the same time I generally shy away from buying produce at Farmer's Markets because they don't accept food stamps. This is a conflicted area for me, because I really like to support farmer's markets when I can.
However! A new program through the Idaho Office for Refugees has started accepting food stamps at the Boise Farmer's Market. The Idaho Office for Refugees, specifically the Global Gardens program, has several refugee gardens that it coordinates throughout Boise. One of these gardens is actually a Somali Bantu community farm, and starting this Saturday their farm stand accepted food stamps. This will be the case every Saturday, 9:30 AM-1:30 PM, at the Capitol City Public Market on 8th Street in Boise, as well as every Tuesday night at Edward's Greenhouse from 5:30-dark. Unfortunately I believe the season is nearing its close, but there's still some time and next year, too!
If other food stamp recipients are anything like me, when something like this becomes available they jump on it. I would imagine that this new development will really increase the farm stand's income. Take my example, for instance. As soon as my food stamps were approved, I went to the co-op (yes, the co-op in Boise accepts them!) and went a little crazy. It was completely guilt-free food shopping, and I live for good food. I would not have bought groceries at the co-op normally (and probably won't always do it in the future... even with food stamps it's pretty expensive), but because of my food stamp money I felt I could afford it.
This video from CBS goes along the same line, and I would say, at least judging by my case, that it is definitely true. Who knows what will happen? All I know is, it's good for everyone involved that the Somali Bantu farm now accepts food stamps. It's good for the farmers, because they will probably see an increase in sales, and it's good for the food stamp recipients, because they can buy fresh produce.

On a gardening note, I moved some tubs of dead leaves from my backyard yesterday, and they are already turning into fantastic compost. Gardening really is something that is accessible to almost everyone, and no matter how much research I do, there are a million different ways to do it. Like so many things, it is often a process of trial and error.

And finally! I found this website called Green Maps. Throughout the world, people have been making these maps to point out the "green" places in their areas (i.e. parks, community gardens, natural landmarks,...). They're fun to look through, and people chose to map many different things. Boise does not have a green map... perhaps I can take some of my work and make one down the line...? Only time can tell!

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