Ohioans who qualify for federal food assistance will gain greater access to fruits and vegetables, thanks to a $2.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Cincinnati-based Produce Perks Midwest, the grant’s recipient, will match the funds to provide Ohioans who use the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the food stamp program, with a total of $4.6 million worth of produce through 2021.
SNAP recipients will receive tokens valid just for produce purchases when they shop at one of over 100 participating farmers markets and grocery stores.
If someone has $20 in food stamp value on the debit card used to redeem SNAP benefits, for example, that person will receive $20 worth of tokens to buy produce, doubling their grocery budget. The tokens apply not only to fresh and frozen produce, but also for the purchase of seeds and plants, enabling recipients to grow their own fruits and vegetables.
“It empowers SNAP consumers to purchase healthy food,” said Tevis Foreman, executive director of Produce Perks Midwest.
Founded last year, the nonprofit group spearheads a coalition of nutrition-incentive programs throughout Ohio that help SNAP recipients eat more healthy. SNAP helps nearly 1.7 million low-income Ohioans put food on the table.
The Produce Perks grant, announced earlier this month, is part of the USDA’s $21 million effort to incentivize SNAP recipients to buy produce. Last year, Franklin County spent $15,000 to help central Ohioans who use SNAP buy fresh produce.
“Healthy eating, along with other healthy lifestyle choices such as regular physical activity and not smoking, can lead to benefits such as lowering high blood pressure, helping control weight and reducing the risk for other chronic diseases including cancer, diabetes, stroke and heart disease,” Ohio Department of Health spokesman J.C. Benton said in a news release.
To teach Ohioans recipes using their newly purchased produce, Local Matters, a central Ohio-based nonprofit group affiliated with Produce Perks, is offering hands-on cooking demonstrations at the Westgate and Linden farmers markets. The Linden market debuted earlier this summer in the wake of the Kroger closure at the Northern Lights Shopping Center.
“It’s great if you end up with an artichoke or a rutabaga, or insert obscure vegetable,” said Sarah Miller, Local Matters’ spokeswoman. “How do you make that into an actual meal, especially if you’re a single mom or someone on food stamps with two jobs?”
From salads to sautés, the nonprofit group’s “food educators” focus on quick, easy meals appealing to individuals who insist they do not have enough time to cook, she said.
“It’s extremely rewarding when we can change that attitude,” Miller said.
Maya Kaufman, The Columbus Dispatch, August 25, 2018
USDA grants to help needy Ohioans buy produce