The local, organic, sustainable movement (please, can we all just find a good acronym for that already?) sometimes gets a bad rap for being elitist and/or overpriced, out of the reach of those with limited means. An interesting article by Jennifer Maiser in Edible San Francisco titled “Real Food for All” takes a look at some of the programs in place to encourage shopping at farmers’ markets by those on public assistance, or as she puts it, those who are “food insecure.”
There are several issues at play here: transportation to the markets; the decline in cooking knowledge; comparative costs; and the technology behind how public assistance is administered. A switch by the USDA to a plastic debit-style card—which was chosen to lessen the stigma of food stamp use—has been problematic (um, most farmers’ stalls don’t take cards). These cards can be redeemed for tokens at some markets’ info booths, but the use rates have gone down since the switch.
There may be challenges, but it’s nice to know that there is some attempt to make farmers’ markets accessible to a wider range of eaters. That baby mesclun is too good to keep for just the yuppies.