Food Systems for Healthy Places

Great post by Dr. Morales on some of his current project work, including his perspective on the Indicators for Impacts AFRI-funded project that we both are working on through 2016.
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Food Systems for Healthy Places | BEPHC | Georgia Institute of Technology | Atlanta, GA.

Echoing Green Fellowship

Successful applicants not only present an innovative way of addressing social issues, but also explain why they as individuals have what it takes to succeed. Echoing Green is not a grant-making organization. We are a fellowship program because we believe in the importance of the individual social entrepreneur as well as his/her project. As such, we look at both the applicant and the applicant’s idea.

A successful applicant to the Echoing Green Fellowship not only presents an innovative way of addressing a social issue but also explains why they have what it takes to create change. Download our Selection Criteria Guide and visit echoinggreen.org/apply to learn more about what we look for when we review applications.

Remember, the 2015 Echoing Green Fellowship application opens on Tuesday, December 2, 2014! Make sure you’re ready: download our Short Answer Question Help Guide to start preparing your answers now.

A bittersweet thanks from a market vendor

One of the great market bakers over the last many years in New Orleans wrote the letter below telling of his decision to leave the Tuesday market in New Orleans to his customers via Facebook and his website. He is an extremely creative and dedicated artisan and one with diversified marketing and product ideas. Unfortunately in his estimation, the potential for sales are diminishing, especially at the weekday markets. That view is not his alone; it is shared by other vendors. This is the first comment after his Facebook post and happened to be from another past market baker: “This is sad to hear for me because this is why I had to stop being a farmer’s market baker full time 5 years ago. I miss my CCFM family and wish everyone the best.”

When markets go through this, it can be a painful and messy break up or it can be a mature parting with lessons learned for all. Everyone has to agree to be careful with their language (spoken, written and body) and to be intentionally fair as the weeks and months go on.

I think this letter does a great job not to assign any blame and offers some good starting points for talking this through with shoppers, other vendors and the staff of the market organization. This is a volatile time for markets in New Orleans and the small businesses contained within feel the brunt of that ebb and flow.  I also well remember the pressure of being a market organizer, remembering every minute that good men and women and their families and employees rely on your estimations of the numbers of happy return shoppers, where to find inquisitive new shoppers, devising events that work and don’t detract from sales, outreach and marketing dollars spent well, locations remaining stable, partnerships adding value and so on while trying to calm fears and add excitement among the vendors while you do it.

As a market advocate and a member of this community, I worry along with all of them and show up at every market and event that I can and share information freely to help everyone move forward. Because our purpose in building a community food system is to offer new opportunities that offer sustained value and multiple types of benefits along every step of the chain, and honor the producers who are building this on their backs and with their many talents, supported by the hard work and talent of market and other food system organizers. Let’s all keep momentum moving forward to reduce the quantity of these type of letters.

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25 November 2014

Dear Farmers Market Customers:

It is with a heavy heart that we are announcing our departure from Tuesday’s Crescent City Farmers Market (CCFM). Due to a sustained erosion of sales over the course of the past eights months, and to the unpredictably of future markets, we are forced to withdraw our booth from this cherished market. Our last TUESDAY market will be the 25th of November.

Although Bellegarde Bakery, in its original gestation as “Babcia Kubiak’s Breads”, began at CCFM five years ago, we have found that the current status of public markets in New Orleans is extremely volatile. There is an overwhelming consensus among vendors at CCFM that “business is not what it used to be”: due to the nature of Bellegarde’s craft, and our commitment to quality, we do not have a “product” which we can freeze, store, or transfer once market is over. We make fresh bread, day in and day out, in heat and in cold, on weekends and on holidays, so that our customers can understand the integrity of fresh food.

We are extremely vulnerable—physically and financially—to capricious weather, shopping habits, and other food ‘trends’ that degrade the quality and consistency of farmers markets. Vendors at farmers markets are at the bottom of the proverbial food chain: we do all the sowing and receive little of the harvest. The current food economy of America is such that money, respect, and stability trickle down from celebrity chefs, supermarkets, and restaurants to the bottom of the pool—fishermen, beekeepers, bakers, farmers: the people that actually make food have trouble making a living at their primary venue of sales: the farmers market. Without any institutional or municipal support through grants, press, mentorship, or subsidy, we vendors suffer the modern whims of that most basic human gesture: the eating and sharing food.

By the vendors, for the vendors: it’s a motto we still live by. We have an implacable commitment to rebuilding the edible architecture of New Orleans through grains and breads. We will remain at our SATURDAY booth and you can find us in a litany of retail locations—from Rouses and Whole Foods to St James Cheese and Faubourg Wines. Please follow the “retail” tab on our website, bellegardebakery.com, or call the shop with any questions about where to find our bread. Thank you, sincerely, for your continued support and faith.

Project for Public Spaces | Apply Now for Free Technical Assistance

Is your community working to become more livable and sustainable? Are you running into barriers in achieving these goals?

Project for Public Spaces is excited to announce free technical assistance (through January 9, 2015) to address these challenges. Livability Solutions partners, which include the nation’s leading experts in creating sustainable communities, will lead one- and two-day targeted workshops in communities around the U.S. Communities will learn how to use PPS’ tools or workshop approaches, such as walkability audits, green infrastructure valuation guides, shared use agreements, and community image surveys, that can help achieve goals of enhancing livability, creating lasting economic and environmental improvements, and improving residents’ public and social health. A short report will be prepared for each community following the technical assistance. Eight to ten communities will be selected to receive technical assistance this year.Link to application and more information.

Canadian measurement of local food impact

Received a great report this week from Community Food Centres Canada. These folks “provide resources and a proven approach to partner organizations across Canada to create Community Food Centres that bring people together to grow, cook, share, and advocate for good food.”
Their report has loads of information, including some clear metrics with some of the social (I.e. added connections, added trust) and human benefits (I.e. knowledge gained) as well as metrics for gauging the effectiveness of their projects for the communities that they serve.

+ 93% of community members surveyed report that Community Food Centres are an important source of healthy food.

+ 88% of food skills program participants have increased confidence in making healthy food choices.

+ 90% of food skills program participants report improvements in their mental health.

+ 91% of parents of children in After School Programs say their children showed increased confidence in the kitchen after having participated in the program.

+ 88% of community members surveyed report that they’ve made a new friend since they’ve come to their Community Food Centre.

Downloads their report here

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Technology for markets and farmers: EMV (or chip and pin technology) for cards

Was fortunate to be on a call with market state and network leaders today and to hear speakers including Kim Lyons, a long time supporter of small retailers at MerchantSource®; she gave us a great overview today of the chip and pin enabled devices/aka EMV devices/aka smart card technology that is coming down the pike. Here is what I heard, and as I get updates I’ll post them here and if what I wrote here needs to be corrected by my more able colleagues, I’ll also update. But since I know many markets don’t have state or network support systems, I felt it was necessary to get this on radar screens asap.

Chip and pin technology has existed for many years in Europe but had not been pushed in the US market- that was, until some of the worst breaches of cards ever seen happened in the past year, including the Home Depot and Target breaches (although some reports indicate that last particular breach may not have been solved by chip and pin technology!) Nevertheless, chip and pin technology is coming and coming soon.

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This technology means credit and debit cards contain an embedded microchip and are authenticated automatically using a PIN. When a customer uses a card, it is placed into a “Point of Sale” (POS) terminal, which connects to the chip on the card. To complete the transaction, the customer enters a 4-digit PIN. These new technologies are meant to reduce the likelihood of breaches, especially at the merchant level! This is also true of new app-based systems (also called “contactless systems”) like Apple Pay which allow a user to upload credit cards to their iPhone 6 and use encrypted “near-field technology” to just tap the smart phone to the merchant pad. The card never leaves ones wallet in those cases.

This chip and pin technology directly relates to all debit and credit but not presently to EBT only technology because EBT uses a different software kernel (system). However, many expect FNS to address this issue with changes in their technology sooner or later.
Important to note: This technology is for “card present” (CP) transactions and so internet or phone based transactions aka card not present (CNP) transactions will need their own version of chip and pin; some exist already. Of course, markets are not usually running CNP transactions so this is less of an issue right now for physical farmers markets.
There is a great deal left to learn about these issues as markets move into the next generation of technology. What is crucial to understand right now is the expected deadline of October 2015 for having this emv/pci compliant technology will shift liability of any breach on to merchant’s shoulders rather than the merchant providers of Mastercard/Visa etc. After that expected date of October 2015, in order for liability of any breach to stay with the merchant service providers, it will be necessary for any retailer to have these integrated pin pads or systems at that point. That means either adopting brand new card technology or app-based services like Apple Pay or upgrading their existing magnetic stripe only capabilities.
Once again, this technology is not directly related to EBT right now as a different type of technology so EBT only machines are not affected at this time but rumors abound of possible changes…

*TL/DR: Markets or state associations need to know if their merchant service providers or app-based solutions are emv/pci/contactless compliant. This new technology needs to be embedded into their pin pads or new technology by October of 2015 or the liability for any breach shifts to the merchant (read market). That entering into any lease system for readers at this point may mean getting technology that is “end of life” and cannot be upgraded or may mean paying for equipment after its technology is outdated. (Leasing versus renting contract language also needs to be understood by the buyer!) So, state associations, national partners and advocates for farmers and markets are working hard to understand these issues and to find resources for markets and farmers to understand the issues that will arise.
What was also raised on this call was Farmers Market Coalition’s new contract with FNS to administer 3.3 million in support grants to markets for EBT systems and 700,000 in replacement equipment. I am sure that system along with the existing Marketlink system (which is an entirely separate program from FMC’s contract and supports NEW EBT systems for markets and for market farmers) are both going to work diligently on making sure these new systems are addressed.
Start reading up, folks.

* internet slang for “Too long; didn’t read”

Farmers Market Coalition helping SNAP at markets through USDA contract

The Farmers Market Coalition (FMC) has been awarded a USDA contract to assist in improving and expanding the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) at farmers markets nationwide.  Through the contract, FMC will collaborate with the USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) to administer $4 million in grants for SNAP programming needs and replacement wireless electronic benefit transfer (EBT) equipment.

Over the next twelve months, FMC will complete the following objectives in collaboration with FNS: (1) establish a process that FNS will use to award support grants to eligible farmers markets, and (2) establish and implement a process to provide replacement SNAP EBT equipment and services to farmers markets and direct-marketing farmers that are operating SNAP programs in situations of hardship.

The funds will be used to provide markets and farmers with various types of support. FNS has identified the most commonly requested types of assistance, in descending order:

  1. Personnel costs to operate farmers markets;
  2. Materials to materials to inform SNAP participants of their ability to use their benefits at farmers markets;
  3. Miscellaneous equipment, such as scrip, and technology infrastructure (wifi hotspots, phone lines, electrical lines, etc.);
  4. Replacement equipment and for existing markets and farmers that are in situations of hardship.

Needs numbered 1, 2, and 3 above will be addressed in the form of support grants for eligible farmers markets, while number 4, the need for replacement equipment, will be addressed separately.  It is expected that of the total $4 million, approximately $3.3 million will be used for support grants, while the remaining $700,000 will be spent on replacement equipment.

FMC is eager to assist USDA FNS in fulfilling their goal of supporting local food systems by expanding access to healthy foods for SNAP participants. FMC Executive Director Jen Cheek shared, “SNAP redemptions at farmers markets have risen dramatically over the past five years, but they still represent a extremely small percentage of total SNAP benefit spending.  This support from USDA will help markets and farmers build strong SNAP programs – getting more fresh, locally farmed food to the Americans who need it most.”