Learn a little, give a little, grow a little

For the last couple of years, Portland Farmers Market has been delving into the question of food equity, examining the role we can play in getting farm-fresh produce into the hands of our neighbors who need it most. In 2009, this work took the form of a new “market money” matching program for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) recipients shopping our King Portland Farmers Market. Created by the Northeast Coalition of Neighborhoods and managed by a team of dedicated volunteers, Foodshare Fund Northeast provided a dollar for dollar match up to $5 per week for customers who use EBT cards at the market. In 2010, the match has increased to $10 per week.

The inaugural year of Foodshare Fund Northeast resulted in a significant increase in the number of EBT cardholders shopping the market, from 1% of all shoppers at the beginning of the 2009 market season, to 5% of shoppers by season’s end. This encouraging news tells us that everyone values access to fresh produce, not just those who are most able to afford it. Nutrition incentive programs such as the Foodshare Fund are helping us grow healthier individuals, healthier families, and a healthier community for all our citizens.

Foodshare Fund Northeast was the inspiration for Fresh Exchange, a similar matching program launched this year at our Buckman Market in southeast Portland. Fresh Exchange provides a dollar for dollar match up to $5 for shoppers using EBT cards at the market. Fresh Exchange was initiated by members of the Portland Business Alliance’s Leadership Portland program in collaboration with Southeast Uplift Neighborhood Coalition. Like Foodshare Fund Northeast, Fresh Exchange is managed by committed volunteers and funded solely by local individuals and businesses, including founding support from the Portland Trail Blazers, Wells Fargo, and Markowitz, Herbold, Glade & Mehlhaf, P.C.

Both matching programs are actively fundraising to ensure a solid endowment for this season and beyond. To that end, check out this series of upcoming garden workshops at the Buckman Market to benefit Fresh Exchange. The workshops will tell you everything you need to know to get on your gardening way, beginning with an overview of seeding, planting and watering this Thursday, June 3, from 5:30-6:30. Registration is encouraged but not required. Drop by the market and join us.

Click here to learn more about Foodshare Fund Northeast and Fresh Exchange, including how you can help us sustain these valuable programs.

See you at the market!