Happy National Farmers Market Week! I hope you’ve had a chance to visit your local farmers market and taste the delicious fresh, Virginia Grown™ food available there. All summer long, we’ve been encouraging you, our loyal readers, and participants of our program to Eat Smart, Move More at Farmers Markets. Using SNAP at farmers markets is a great way to eat smart, support your local community, and even increase your food budget (more on that below). But you don’t have to take my word for it. Today, we are featuring the advice of one of FNP’s farmers market interns as well as a SNAP recipient who shops at the farmers market.
How and Why to Shop at a Farmers Market
Olivia is FNP’s farmers market intern working at the Blacksburg Farmers Market and the Christiansburg Farmacy Garden. She has worked with us in the past, including on our video series, “From a Farmer to You.” As a farmers market intern, she gives a healthy recipe demonstration, along with a short nutrition lesson on topics centered around the nutritional benefit of the recipe and MyPlate– getting more fruits and veggies, choosing lean protein, increasing fiber, etc. She also works at the Farmacy Garden, by assisting the garden coordinator with teaching gardening skills to participants, who get a free bag of produce each week from the garden.
On her most inspiring moment this summer:
A boy, whose mother is a Farmacy Garden participant, doesn’t like vegetables. But all season long, he’s been waiting to harvest the carrots. So when we finally pulled the first carrots out of the ground, he could hardly wait for it to get washed off before taking a big bite! After having this positive experience with the carrots, he’s more likely to be open to trying and liking new veggies in the future.
On the biggest skill she’s learned this summer:
Gardening! Gardening is a new skill for me to grow my own food. I’ve been inspired to pursue a career path where I can combine both nutrition education and growing your own food to help people make healthier choices.
On why SNAP at farmers markets:
For many people using SNAP, convenience stores are the closest option for buying food. But farmers markets can come into any community and improve the quality and variety of food available.
I have also found that fresh produce from the farmers market lasts longer, so you end up with less food going bad before you use it.
Many farmers markets offer SNAP Match programs (where the market provides additional tokens for people who use SNAP). SNAP Matching makes it more affordable to shop at farmers markets to buy fresh, Virginia Grown™ food.
For new shoppers at the market, there’s a bit of a learning curve on how to shop smart at farmers markets. But once you go and get the hang of it, it’s totally worth it. Farmers markets are a great place to find healthy food for your family.
Her advice for new shoppers at farmers markets:
First, find the SNAP table to get your tokens. The people there can answer many of your questions.
You’ll probably discover new and unusual foods at the market. Don’t get overwhelmed or carried away with all these choices. Try just 1 new ingredient each week. Ask the farmer for recipe suggestions.
And on that same note, don’t be afraid to ask questions! Farmers can give you good advice on how to best select, store, or prepare their products.
While I was talking with Olivia, a frequent shopper came over to her table to sample the Southwestern Beans and Rice recipe she was sharing. She was happy to share her advice for other shoppers using SNAP at farmers markets.
Make sure to use the SNAP Match program because it makes fresh fruits and vegetables more affordable.
Try something new that catches your eye at the market. Ask for a recipe – FNP’s interns have been a great help!
Using SNAP at farmers markets helps the local community, it takes less gas to get food to the market than shipping food from far away to a grocery store, and shopping at the market benefits local people and farmers, who might be your neighbors.
~ S. Kilian, 8/5/15
Is there anything you would add to the advice our intern and the SNAP shopper shared?