Food Stamps & Farm Stands

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(Sacramento, CA)
Monday, July 6, 2009

It’s like kids in a candy story…but here it’s not about chocolate and gummy bears.

“…Blackberries, yummy, I love it…” 
Eighteen kids are jockeying to get near the bright red strawberries and lush greens at the farm stand. They’re making their way around long tables loaded with produce. 
This is just what Ramona Mosley wants to see. She’s with the Health Education Council, the organization behind this project.

“The kids, they have never seen produce in its natural state, like directly from the ground to the table, they’ve seen it in a can, or its frozen, or it’s already chopped up, now they know what it is when they see all the leaves still connected to it they’re like, oh that’s a radish, or oh, that’s broccoli.” 
Mosley’s agency helped coordinate the more than $300,000 grant for the farm stand and outreach program called In the Grow. The project’s funding comes from the First 5 Sacramento Commission, funded by state tobacco tax money. Mosley says In the Grow’s focus is tackling childhood obesity.

“Starting at a young age we’ll equip them with the skills and knowledge so that they don’t have these onset diseases that are plaguing our country.” 
There are seven farm stands so far around Sacramento County. Each is located near a Head Start daycare for low-income families. This one's run near the VA Hospital in Rancho Cordova by Randy Stannard of Soil Born Farms.

“I’ll go and get collard greens, and mustard greens and green onions…"
Stannard says since the program’s targeting low-income families, he accepts food stamps through electronic debit cards.

“So essentially it’s just like coming to the store, people are able to slide their card through, they enter their pin number, and that pretty much takes care of the process, it’s just like being at the grocery store.” 

Customer Michelle Stowe has a daughter who attends the Rancho Cordova daycare.  

“With me getting fruit from the farm stands, my daughter eats a lot more fruits and vegetables then she has with me just going and buying groceries from the regular store.” 

Another regular is Nadine Oakley. Her daughter attends the Head Start daycare too and is now hooked on lima beans.

“Yeah trying to stay away from diabetes, that’s a big thing with African Americans, so we try to cook really healthy to teach them good habits for the future.” 
Some families are using their food stamps at the farm stand…but Randy Stannard says they only account for a fraction of total sales.

“Right now I’d say maybe 10, 10 to 20 percent, we’d always like it to be higher and it’s a work in progress for sure of getting the word out.” 

Stannard says part of the challenge is this is just the second season for the stands. And while farmers and health advocates are trying to sell the farm stand idea to more parents…these kids are already sold.

“…We’re almost done, I think the bags got enough in it, stop the cherries, stop the cherries..."