- A study* from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service shows that consumers who buy fruits and vegetables from farmers’ markets spend more than $10 on average per week than consumers who buy fruits and vegetables from supermarkets — $28.36 and $16.53, respectively, according to The Packer.
- The study also shows that consumers who shop at DTC outlets do not spend less at supermarkets overall, indicating that DTC outlets do not pose a significant threat to grocery retailers.
- Although DTCs represent less than 0.5 percent of U.S. Agriculture sales, according to the report, consumers who visit DTC’s more frequently could lead to higher levels of fruit and vegetable spending across all outlets as they become exposed to more offerings.
The study’s takeaway? Encouraging consumers to shop at farmers’ markets and similar outlets more often could boost overall spending on fruits and vegetables.
*Stewart, H., & Dong, D. (2018). The Relationship Between Patronizing Direct-to-Consumer Outlets and a Household’s Demand for Fruits and Vegetables.
With the announcement of the 2018 FMPP/LFPP RFA this week – tucked into the Specialty Crop Block Grant announcement- I wanted to alert you to this 2017 post below about the indicators that are included in the proposal.
There is also a shorter version on FMC’s website. Here is the link to it. )
Congratulations to everyone who got their FMPP/LFPP grants in by the deadline yesterday. I talked or emailed with a few of you throughout that process and was impressed by the well-crafted strategies that I read and heard about.
As you can imagine, a lot of the calls I was on focused on the new prescribed indicators (performance/outcome measures) that were included with the RFP for the first time. Those were the same for FMPP as for LFPP projects and were:
OUTCOME 1: TO INCREASE CONSUMPTION OF AND ACCESS TO LOCALLY AND REGIONALLY PRODUCED AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTS.
Indicators 1. Of the [insert total number of] consumers, farm and ranch operations, or wholesale buyers reached, a. The number that gained knowledge on how to buy or sell local/regional food OR aggregate, store, produce, and/or distribute local/regional food b. The number that reported an intention to buy or sell local/regional food OR aggregate, store, produce, and/or distribute local/regional food c. The number that reported buying, selling, consuming more or supporting the consumption of local/regional food that they aggregate, store, produce, and/or distribute
2. Of the [insert total number of] individuals (culinary professionals, institutional kitchens, entrepreneurs such as kitchen incubators/shared-use kitchens, etc.) reached, a. The number that gained knowledge on how to access, produce, prepare, and/or preserve locally and regionally produced agricultural products b. The number that reported an intention to access, produce, prepare, and/or preserve locally and regionally produced agricultural products c. The number that reported supplementing their diets with locally and regionally produced agricultural products that they produced, prepared, preserved, and/or obtained
OUTCOME 2: INCREASE SALES AND CUSTOMERS OF LOCAL AND REGIONAL AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTS.
Indicator 1. Sales increased from $________ to $_________ and by ______ percent ( n final – n initial/n initial (100) =% change), as result of marketing and/or promotion activities during the project performance period. 14 | Page 2. Customer counts increased from [insert total number of] to [insert total number of] customers and by _____percent ( n final – n initial/n initial (100) =% change) during the project performance period.
OUTCOME 3: DEVELOP NEW MARKET OPPORTUNITIES FOR FARM AND RANCH OPERATIONS SERVING LOCAL MARKETS.
Indicators 1. Number of new and/or existing delivery systems/access points of those reached that expanded and/or improved offerings of: a. ______farmers markets. b. ______roadside stands. c. ______community supported agriculture programs. d. ______agritourism activities. e. ______other direct producer-to-consumer market opportunities. f. ______local and regional Food Business Enterprises that process, aggregate, distribute, or store locally and regionally produced agricultural products. 2. Number of local and regional farmers and ranchers, processors, aggregators, and/or distributors that reported: a. an increase in revenue expressed in dollars: _____ b. a gained knowledge about new market opportunities through technical assistance and education programs: ______
3. Number of: a. new rural/urban careers created (Difference between “jobs” and “careers”: jobs are net gain of paid employment; new businesses created or adopted can indicate new careers): _______ b. jobs maintained/created:_______ c. new beginning farmers who went into local/regional food production: _____ d. socially disadvantaged famers who went into local/regional food production: ______ e. business plans developed:____
OUTCOME 4: IMPROVE THE FOOD SAFETY OF LOCALLY AND REGIONALLY PRODUCED AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTS.
Indicator(s) – Only applicable to projects focused on food safety. 1. Number of individuals who learned about prevention, detection, control, and intervention through food safety practices:_____ 2. Number of those individuals who reported increasing their food safety skills and knowledge:______ 3. Number of growers or producers who obtained on-farm food safety certifications (such as Good Agricultural Practices or Good Handling Practices): _____
The applicant is also required to develop at least one project-specific outcome(s) and indicator(s) in the Project Narrative and must explain how data will be collected to report on each applicable outcome and indicator.
These confounded many, while others knew exactly how to use these to define their grant’s outcomes. I hope that USDA calls in some of those who do a bang up job in setting and achieving their numbers to talk with the newbies in future years.
Because of the previous work on the trans•act tools (which include the SEED tool) while at Market Umbrella, and the more recent and engrossing Farmers Market Metrics (FMM) work I have been doing with FMC and their partners these last few years, I have become very familiar with this language and these indicators. Most are included in the metrics chosen by FMC to be collected starting in 2016 with FMM through their own projects and through offering support to networks that area ready to embed evaluation systems in their projects.
Since I spent some time working with various project leaders on this, I thought I’d give my two cents here as to how I’d approach these if I was the lead.In this post, I’m going to talk about my general theory of data at the grassroots level and the first two outcomes; I’ll tackle #3 and #4 and unique indicators in upcoming posts.
Some may disagree with my assessment of how to handle these indicators which to me is actually a good thing since by tackling this in varying ways, we are likely to hit on the best methods of establishing these baseline numbers and for collecting the data.
The first thing that confounded some proposal writers is how every indicator could be met by the varied projects: of course, they cannot and are not expected to. Since some projects are focused only on increasing sales at a market and not on increasing the number of outlets, some indicators are more relevant than others and should be used in more detail. Remember, these indicators are for both FMPP and LFPP projects which covers a wide spectrum and so are meant to support the general outcomes for all. It is my opinion that the unique indicators asked for at the end are likely to be the most useful for reviewers to read closely in order to match to the narrative or budget. I’d expect though that those proposals that could not reasonably answer a majority of the indicators with numbers will suffer in that reviewing process, as did USDA it seems, as they recommended in their webinar that everyone explain those that they couldn’t answer. Or if possible, add a piece to their project to address that indicator. And I think you can assume that USDA was being firm in saying that this pot of money should result in changes of these kinds, so if your project cannot reasonably do any of them, maybe look elsewhere for support.
I think the best way to really make these outcomes accurate is for the project lead to write them with the vision of using them as a banner to fly throughout the term of the project for the team to hit, surpass or to discuss why they cannot be met and what that means. And that the numbers should be slightly lofty-it is better to extend the reach at the outset and urge the team to do their best work to reach or even surpass it. However, don’t just throw some outrageous numbers in there or you will be telling the reviewers and your team that you have no intention of achieving them. So even though I used the word lofty, there is something in being efficient with your project through establishing very precise numbers too.
Here is some real-world experience on setting numbers: in one of my past careers, I was a staff director for a field canvass operation in Ohio and sent out a team of organizers Monday through Friday to seek support for the advocacy work we did on pocketbook and environmental issues that directly affected Ohioans (things like utility rates and knowing what toxins were stored in your neighborhood). My staff was made up of entry-level organizers trained over a few weeks to knock on doors to gather signatures, funds, and letters from those who agreed with our strategy. One of the first things field managers were taught to do at the end of each evening was to check the data that the canvasser marked on the back of their clipboard to see how many actual doors were knocked on, how many people they actually talked to, how many signatures they got, how many of those that signed offered funds or a letter (sometimes a letter is harder to collect!) and so on. As a field manager and as a director, I used to pore over those to try to note patterns and efficiency. Well, surprise surprise; success did not always mean more doors were reached. As a matter of fact, the most successful canvassers were extremely efficient and usually talked to many fewer people (50% fewer than those who had a dispiriting night as a rule) and those they did talk to gave their signature, funds and other assistance at a higher rate. So I realized that higher efficiency in organizing was related to great communication techniques, planning and attitude and so focused my training on those rather than the number of contacts approached.
The other main point to share is that every staff person had to meet a quota (hated that word then and still do) and some nights some or all of them did not meet it. When the canvassers did not meet it, my field managers were trained to ask one question (in varying ways): “At what point did you realize you wouldn’t make it?” We asked that because we knew that it was the point when the canvasser mentally gave up and usually began to talk at people, rather than connecting directly. Or that they had bias or assumptions against a certain group or type of person and that affected their night.
This little story is to say that with market projects, the same thing is probably true: Efficiency is a good plan for our tiny organizations in order to conserve ours and our vendors’ energy for the long haul and to be there for another day. And that how well we plan and how we address our assumptions about those we hope to reach has a lot to do with setting numbers and meeting or achieving them.
Okay let’s look at the first two outcomes now:
Outcome 1: Increase consumption and access.
The indicators that are clustered with this outcome are related, meaning that once you have established the (a) the number of buyers and or producers that gained knowledge, you can then estimate the number (b) of those that then report an intention and then finally, the number (c) that reported actually buying, selling, aggregating etc. The second part of this outcome is related to those professionals like chefs or incubator-users who, if the project is expecting to reach that audience, then they are also going to be measured for knowledge, intention and actual activity.
I think this one was written out particularly well done as it takes a project step by step through the process of establishing their reach. This should have been relatively easy for most projects, as knowing how many people you plan on reaching is sort of 101 for FMPP or any USDA grant!
USDA’s suggestion was to write them out in a mathematical formula writing a beginning number, then the number you want to hit and then calculating the percentage of increase. It may be helpful to do that in 2 columns and consider both the direct and indirect ways that your project will reach people. Certainly, if you are doing training or workshops you can estimate your attendance, but how about those who just read about your training or workshop and track down the info that way? How about through the media that your project uses to gain attendees? Is it reasonable to think that others will hear about the market or outlet and begin to attend because of it? And never forget the vendors and including them into any project outcome, even if it is a straight up new shopper project; the vendors also can learn about the marketing and use it in their own sales reach if it is shared properly. And of course, how about the project partners and their reach?
Once you set the number who will gain knowledge (and I think that your project should plan that just about everyone that gets your materials or attends your workshop will gain knowledge) you then think about who will change their behavior because of it. I wonder if I had a group of market managers and a group of vendors in one room and asked them to gauge that if 1,000 people are reached through materials or training, how many they think will actually intend to use it, and then how many will actually use that knowledge to buy, sell aggregate etc what differences we’d see. Because that estimate can vary, based on the perspective and experience of those setting the number.
My feeling would be that the vendors would assume that more people will intend to come but would think that less will actually buy. I say that because they deal with everyone directly and know painfully well how many pass by their table without eye contact or a deep perusal of what is for sale. So they know firsthand how getting people to actually do something is hard. I’d say that managers would be more likely to think more people will be reached but that less would report an intention to come to a market, but that once they are there, that a higher percentage will purchase. My assumption may be entirely wrong and maybe someday I can test it and readjust it. The most important thing is to test your project assumptions by asking everyone for numbers and adjusting them accordingly to their bias and experience and according to your plan.
I also think percentages without numbers can be difficult to be realistic about, so I often suggest that people start on the wrong end: if the project is for increasing shoppers to a single market, how many more shoppers could that market actually handle per week? 100? 200? 1000? Think about the vendors and your space and your Welcome Booth and visualize adding that number every week. Would it overwhelm the market? Do you have enough parking or access to transportation to make it happen? How many added shoppers per hour would that mean to your anchor vendors? Is that worth it?
Remember that the average shopper in most markets spends between 10-30 dollars so using those numbers above, the market would add another $1000 -$30,000 week in sales. Pretty cool huh? Or if you hope to add another market day: Maybe your Saturday market has 45 vendors on average, you might estimate that since your new market is smaller and has less parking, that you hope 25 or so can use this new outlet. In both cases, your initial outreach has to be wider than the final number, as some will not get to your market or have the ability to add market days even when told of the opportunity.
Outcome 2: To increase sales
Couldn’t be simpler as, in most cases, FMPP projects are still chiefly attempting to increase sales. It may be true that at some later date, sales increases are not the primary indicator of the success of our work, but with the small reach that alternative food outlets currently have with food shoppers, I agree that this should still be the main goal. Even so, this indicator stymied more people (and I would imagine contributed to some not writing a grant at all) and since it is a common metric for FMM, I’m going to attempt to reason why it is necessary and how we can capture this.
Measuring an increase of sales for a project that is going to do marketing or outreach for a single sales outlet is pretty standard. The issue is that you need a baseline number (starting point) and that is the thing many markets do not have yet. So how do you find the baseline?
Everyone knows that the majority of markets ask for standard stall fees which are not based on vendors’ sales percentages and because of that, many markets have never asked for sales data from their vendors*. What USDA, FMM, Wholesome Wave and others are now saying is that we need to know the impact of our work whether you collect this data for the market’s fee rates or not. So, for those who do already collect it, you are ahead of the curve and probably have a lot to teach the rest of us about how to do it well.
So how do the rest of us do it? Well, the simplest way is to ask vendors directly, either every market day, every month or every season. As you can imagine, the longer you wait to ask this, the more difficult it becomes for the vendor to separate the numbers from your market from the other outlets he/she sells at. However, it also is difficult for multi-tasking vendors to stop at the end of the day to count their money and get that number to you. So what works best? My answer is one that some people hate hearing: whatever works best for your community and your management level is what works best- as long as it gives you accurate data in increments acceptable to those using it.
I’ll talk your ear off about accurate data whenever discussing market evaluation because it is my experience that markets rely too much on anecdotal information and estimates that probably are better described as guesstimates as they have almost no basis in real numbers. I can hear many of you yelling at me through your computer that you are not evaluators and cannot be expected to gather data. My answer to that is as soon as you create projects that use the resources of partners and promise your community some change in behavior because of these efforts, you are both. Meaning as soon as you decided to run a market. (You like how I run the entire argument on my own and that I get the last word?)
However, I am in agreement with many market leaders and vendors that too much data is often asked of markets or vendors that is never used or not shared back with those who offered it. And of course, that collecting the data and the costs associated are almost never added to the cost of any project, and usually, partners just assume that overworked market communities will just throw that added work in their long list and get it to them toot sweet.
Yeah, don’t get me started on data collection challenges here.
Additionally, sales data is at the top of the sensitive information asked presently and I often ask managers or market partners to tell me how much is in their bank account right now as an example of how asking for information without context or reason is alarming to say the least. That is, if you even know a precise number! So I say first be the change you want to see by sharing market data with vendors regularly: token sales for debit are going up but SNAP is steady? What do you think that means? And then ask them what they think it means.
Asking for it in anonymous sales slips is the way FMM suggests it is collected, but I assume that there are other good methods to test. And that it helps all of those methods when the raw data is shared with the vendors and it is used to advocate for their needs. It must be said that to be able to use it in aggregate means it has to be collected in the same way for the same time period and a lot more data is needed to get to any collective contribution, so we do need to hit upon some common methods sooner rather than later. Here are two more possibilities:
And as many of you know, the SEED tool asks shoppers to estimate their purchases and then calculates overall sales from those numbers. Many feel this method of getting sales is better, but it does require more surveying of shoppers more often which means added staff and volunteers.
Another way may come as some markets grow their token systems. Depending on youre market, tt might be possible to estimate how many of your shoppers use that system and whether it is representative of the type of overall shopper you have and use the data to estimate sales.
The main point is we have to agree that we need some data and it should be as precise as possible without violating privacy or exposing weaknesses in one business over another- after all, this is a competitive place. The data you can use for internal analysis as to the market’s impact on its vendors and shoppers can be a lot less and a lot less specific than the data your research partners will need when they start to calculate economic numbers. And that until you have actual data, how you calculated your starting point for these indicators says a lot about your circle of advisors, your experience and your knowledge of the target population.
Whew; enough for now. I’d love to hear how some of you did calculate both of these outcomes and especially sales, both in systems you had baselines and ones that did not. I expect that some of you will disagree with much of my unscientific approach to measurement but hope you know that I welcome your opinions.
My home market organization continues to pilot new ways to include at-risk populations into their community. The staff shared with me that they studied the Sustainable Food Center’s work in Austin TX with CVB to design their pilot. This mock program will lead the state into seeing how WIC families benefit from markets in terms of social and intellectual capital as well as increasing their regular access to healthy food.
(The article seems to state that CCFM has been doing SNAP redemptions since 2008; actually it has been accepting EBT cards to redeem SNAP benefits since 2005 and doing market matches on different programs since before then, including a seafood bucks program and a FMNP reward program for seniors to spend once they spent their FMNP coupons. The incentive added to SNAP has been a program in existence at the market since around 2008.)
Market Umbrella deserves credit for its continued innovation and the staff and board’s willingness to constantly explore ways to increase their markets’ reach.
• In fiscal year 2016, program recipients made 1,095,107 purchases at farmers’ markets and direct marketing farmers nationwide. The average purchase amount was $18.60.•
Almost 1.1 million purchases has a nice ring to it. Of course so does 10 million.That would be a great goal for the market field: 10,000,000 purchases at markets and with dmfs in a single FY by 2019. Sometimes the obsession over only measuring total dollar amount spent limits the strategy for increasing actual uses of benefits in ways that are more useful in retail terms…
• 366,972 SNAP households made at least one purchase at a farmers’ market in fiscal year 2016. Households shopping at farmers’ markets spent $55.51 on average over the course of the year.
• More SNAP benefits were redeemed at farmers’ markets and direct marketing farmers in fiscal year 2016 during August than any other month of the year.
Some of this data needs to be released per state, as the August spike is likely not true in the Southern states. It’d also be great to see here which week or days of the month it spiked as well.
Every direct marketing farmer and outlet has to be prepared for the next years of work, no matter what political affiliation one has. The reality is that many of the food and farming programs that we have worked to expand over the last few years may disappear, or at least shrink in size or in reach. As leaders, you should be cognizant of 3 levels of activism: advocacy, mobilization and organizing. Knowing the difference between those is often the key to avoiding burnout and for engaging people successfully: actively educating others about ideas and needs around your market and its producers (advocacy), encouraging others to be active about those ideas and needs (mobilization), teaching others to lead, defining tactics and building campaign strategies to push those ideas forward or to address a looming legislative crisis(organizing). There are wonderful resources like this one from NYFC to get up to speed on the skills and tactics necessary for different types of work. It is also vital that this work is visible at the local, state and at the regional and/or national level.
advocacy: Don’t Hide the Hard Work: Get ready folks, as this is my new mantra in 2017. It is wonderful that markets work hard to put on lovely, comforting markets that celebrate all that is good in community food and hide the duct tape that keeps it all together, but sometimes I think we leave the market organization’s own story behind. In order for it to be seen as a community asset, it is important that those who use it understand that money must be raised, partnerships have to be managed, and logistical issues are constant. So tell the story of the market and producers in words and pictures to audiences that are interested in expanding its impacts to others nearby. Don’t just tell the same “product available” version week after week, month after month; mix it up and instead use your email newsletter to advocate for a single policy change or to explain the FMPP proposal process or to highlight an evolution that one of your vendors has achieved or is working on. For example, it may be a story about one of your vendors getting their products on grocery store shelves and share some of the steps in terms of policy changes or product development that it took to get that done.
mobilization: • Ask your community to send out emails and tweets when legislators or other audiences need to understand how to make community food better. • Post your municipality’s public meetings and your state’s legislative schedule and invite members of your market community to attend as a group, dropping off some of FMC advocacy materials with your market information. That way, some of you might become information providers on food and farming issues for your legislators when necessary. • Don’t rely entirely on social media to mobilize everyone: Create a phone tree among your producers and affiliated stakeholders for when you want them to call about an issue concerning the market or production. • Offer bulleted points for people to write their own emails or letters. Don’t spend time creating online petitions; legislators rarely take those seriously. They are fine to raise awareness among a group of voters but they do little beyond that when it comes to actual policy changes.
organizing: • Build an advisory team made up of vendors, shoppers and neighbors. If possible include younger people like vendors’ teenaged children or employees, using the time to talk in detail about policy issues that affect your market and its producers. Ask them to write short pieces for the market’s newsletter or to tag along when you are going to do an interview about the market. You’d be surprised how quickly members of your market community will get comfortable in talking about and even for the market if you bring them along carefully and with sensitivity to their fears about public speaking. • Invite state leaders to open the season (even for year-round markets) at the market with a ribbon-cutting ceremony or a bell-ringing. Ask a vendor board member or longtime shopper to spend a few minutes showing the leaders around. • Use Dot Surveys to regularly ask visitors and vendors questions about local issues and not always about food or farming. Post the responses and share them with the municipality.
as coalition members
advocacy: Don’t Hide the Hard Work. • Team up with the area’s intermediate buyers like restaurants to build support for farmers using multiple sales outlets. Ask those chefs and store buyers to use their social media sites to talk about the daily work of the market and your farmers.
mobilization: • Share data on your market impacts with your fellow markets and other food and farming advocates. • Organize a “rapid response team”for misleading stories about markets or farmers to give some context or analysis for the media or the market community. • Create a shared google calendar for writing letters to editors, to legislators and to your state’s policymakers on food and farming.
organizing: • Become members of an active market coalition and of at least one coalition where good food is not the primary goal; make sure any coalition you join is actively working on solutions for markets, producers or shoppers, and inclusive and transparent in its process. In those cases where it is less useful to meet regularly with nearby markets, focus on joining larger coalitions- like FMC of course!- but also try to find markets across the US that are similar to yours in terms of size, age or intent and organize yourself into an issue group. • Encourage your active community members to add a food and farming approach to their work if they are part of other groups, like anti-fracking, safe streets, immigration or in networking events for different professions (i.e. architects specializing in green building or recreational fishers) • Organize an event to show what a local food system looks and acts using as a toy village set up at your town hall or at the community center. Show some of the many, many films on food and farming now available.
This is only the beginning of the conversation. Be prepared to hear more from me and from others about the need for our market leaders to engage on many issues outside of market day. Remember too that markets are already “ahead” of many other organizers in that our work is all about being bridge-builders and working with people with a wide range of goals and perspectives. Let’s use our place in the public arena to connect more people and to build support for food sovereignty and active citizenship. And remind each other to not to allow “naive cynicism” to cloud our future or to limit the possibilities for action.
P.S. Hopefully most of you saw this on various listserves from Debbie Hillman but I think it bears reposting as often as possible:
Post-2016 election, this seems a good moment for U.S. food-and-farm activists to compare how federal resources are used on a regional (or state) level, especially whether these resources are— truly accessible to anyone and everyone— truly responsive to food-and-farm activists and practitioners.In this email, I am focusing on the seven regional offices of USDA’s Food & Nutrition Service (FNS), which is the primary federal division that focuses on food access — the food side of the food-and-farm dyad.
1. USDA FNS REGIONAL OFFICEsHere is a list of the seven USDA FNA Regional Offices:
Mid-Atlantic (Robbinsville, NJ), Midwest (Chicago, IL), Mountain Plains (Denver, CO), Northeast (Boston, MA), Southeast (Atlanta, GA), Southwest (Dallas, TX), Western (San Francisco, CA)See https://www.fns.usda.gov/fns-regional-offices for a list of the states served by each.
2. QUESTIONS to spark reflection and sharing
What do USDA FNS Regional offices do for food-and-farm activists?
How do activists in each region engage with the regional offices?
What can we learn from each other, region to region?
In 2017, what do we want to maintain in our regional offices?
In 2017, what do we want to put in place in our regional offices?
3. MIDWEST OFFICE EXAMPLE: GoodGreens (OH, IN, MI, IL, WI, MN)
To kickstart the conversation, here is a description of GoodGreens, a monthly networking event (plus monthly newsletters), hosted by the Midwest Office of USDA FNS. I have written about GoodGreens before, but have never asked about other regional offices. In my opinion, GoodGreens is a win-win model of government staff engaging with residents.
Official description: GoodGreens – Supporting local food systems in the Midwest RegionGoodGreens is a collaboration facilitated by the USDA Food and Nutrition Service Midwest Region to share resources and best practices that support sustainable local foods production and increase consumption of healthy, locally grown foods. GoodGreens meetings are held monthly in person at the USDA Midwest Regional Office in downtown Chicago and via conference call.
— Monthly networking meetings open to anyone (every month except December)
— Monthly newsletters (usually 2 per month)
— Occasional special notices (new USDA grant cycle, events)
Public Affairs Office (Alan Shannon, Public Affairs Director)
USDA FNS Midwest Office
PRACTICAL BENEFITS TO REGIONAL ACTIVISTS
— Regular and easy-to-ready information (including meeting agendas and minutes)
— Meet or learn about other activists (people, organizations, businesses, projects)
— Connect niche areas (farm-to-school, urban agriculture, food hubs, etc.)
— Connect geographically (find potential partners in same state, county, municipality, etc.)
— Share details of your work (presentation at meetings, announcement through newsletter, etc.)
— Access to information about current resources (jobs, grants, events, etc.)
— Food justice activists learn about farm justice
— Farm justice activists learn about food justice
— Mutual learning among rural, urban, suburban communities
— Meetings are well organized but informal, held in a circle (conference call capability for people who can’t come to the office)
— Easy coalition building – no one is excluded
PRACTICAL BENEFITS TO USDA FNS REGIONAL OFFICE
— Easy way for regional office to learn about new food-and-farm initiatives
— Creates database and regional and state-by-state snapshot of food-and-farm issues
— Professional development for government staff: observe and learn the interconnection of everything and everyone in the food system
— Non-partisan (office is a facilitator, not a promoter of any agenda)
— Free to activists
— Little additional cost (if any) to USDA FNS regional office
GoodGreens began in 2007 as a collaboration between the USDA FNS Regional Office and a Chicago Congressman (Bobby Rush, 1st Cong. District – IL). I believe that Cong. Rush was getting a lot of requests from constituents about food-and-farm issues. Like most urban people in the U.S. (who are trained to be ignorant of the food-and-farm system), no one really knew what to do. So a senior staff member in Cong. Rush’s office (Anton Seals) suggested monthly networking meetings. These meetings were originally held in Cong. Rush’s office. After a couple of years, they were moved permanently to the USDA FNS Midwest Regional Office in downtown Chicago.
REPLICATION IN OTHER REGIONAL OFFICES?
I think that this model is easily replicable in other regional offices — and would even be a good model for civic engagement in most (if not all) areas of government. Getting a local Congressional representative on board might be one of the best ways to start the conversation.
Key to replicating this model is having a Public Affairs Director who is really interested in people and mutual sharing, in addition to being concerned about food access. In my opinion, we would not have GoodGreens without Alan Shannon, who set the tone for GoodGreens from the very beginning. (I sure hope we can keep him, but I’d be willing to share if he can help other government offices learn how easy it is to engage with the people they’re supposed to serve.)
SAMPLE NEWSLETTER: Jan. 26, 2017 meeting
Here is a link to the most recent GoodGreens newsletter (now on Constant Contact):
— Agenda for Jan. 26, 2017 meeting
— News, Resources, Grants, and More….
— Sign-up to receive future newsletters
4. OTHER USDA FNS REGIONAL OFFICES?
I’d be interested to hear about what’s going on in the other six USDA FNS Regional Offices. Maybe activists in the Midwest Region would want to borrow from the other offices. I’m pretty sure that others on COMFOOD, FNS, and NAFSN would be interested, too. — Debbie
You can’t fix agriculture without addressing immigration and labor or without rethinking energy policies; you can’t improve diets without reducing income inequality, which in turn requires unqualified equal rights for women and minorities; you can’t encourage people to cook more at home without questioning gender roles or the double or triple shifts that poor parents often must accept to make ends meet; you can’t fully change the role of women without tackling the future of work, childcare, and education; you can’t address climate change without challenging the power of corporations and their control over the state—and, not so incidentally, without challenging Big Food. The fight for healthy diets is part and parcel of these other struggles, and it will be won or lost alongside them.
It’s all connected; the common threads are justice, fairness, and respect. “Sustainable” is a word that we must now apply to democracy itself: a nation built on perpetuating injustice and the exploitation of people and nature doesn’t qualify. And a “sustainable food system” cannot exist inside an unsustainable political and economic system.
- “I’m disappointed that the rules don’t go as far as what was proposed early this year,” said Danielle Nierenberg, president of Food Tank, a nutrition advocacy group. “USDA has missed an opportunity to increase the availability of and access to healthier foods for low-income Americans.”
The earlier proposals also recommended leaving food with multiple ingredients like frozen pizza or canned soup off the staple list. The outcome is a win for the makers of such products, like General Mills Inc. and Campbell Soup Co., which feared they would lose shelf space as retailers added new items to meet the requirements.
But retailers still criticized the new guidelines as too restrictive. Stores must now stock seven varieties of staples in each food category: meat, bread, dairy, and fruits and vegetables….
…More changes to the food-stamp program may lie ahead. The new rules were published a day after the House Committee on Agriculture released a report* calling for major changes to the program, which Republicans on the committee say discourages recipients from finding better-paid work.
*Some of the findings from the 2016 Committee on Agriculture Report “Past, Present, and Future of SNAP” are below.
- • Program participation nearly doubled (up 81 percent from FY 2007 to FY 2013) as a result of the recent recession. In an average month in FY 2007, 26.3 million people (or about 9 percent of the U.S. population) were enrolled in SNAP. That increased to 47.6 million people (or about 15 percent of the U.S. population) in FY 2013, owing to the fact that the economy was slow to recover and many families remained reliant on SNAP. Even now, with a 4.6 percent unemployment rate (compared to a 9.6 percent unemployment rate for 2010), there were still 43.4 million SNAP participants as of July 2016.
- • SNAP is now a catchall for individuals and families who receive no or lower benefits from other welfare programs, largely because the eligibility criteria in SNAP are relatively more relaxed. As a result, the net effect has been to increase SNAP enrollment. For example, in the welfare reforms of 1996, the cash welfare program Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) was converted into a block grant known as TANF, which has rather rigorous work and activity requirements and includes a time limit. Another program available to those who are laid off from work is Unemployment Insurance (UI). These benefits require individuals to have a work history and to be fired through no fault of their own to be eligible for assistance. UI benefits are also time-limited, typically lasting six months. A third program, Federal disability benefits, requires individuals to prove they are unable to work. For many families who have not collected SNAP in the past, SNAP is now a default option for filling in the gaps.
- • USDA data shows that spending on SNAP remains three times what it was prior to the recession ($23.09 billion pre-recession average compared to $73.99 billion post-recession in FY 2015). However, SNAP spending is now projected to be significantly lower than it was estimated at passage of the 2014 Farm Bill.
- • For FY 2017, the maximum monthly benefit in the 48 contiguous states and DC is $194 for a one-person household, $357 for a two-person household, and $649 for a four-person household.17 In determining a household’s benefit, the net monthly income of the household is multiplied by 30 percent (because SNAP households are expected to spend 30 percent of their income on food), and the result is subtracted from the maximum benefit to determine the household’s benefit.
- • Seniors have the lowest rates of SNAP participation among eligible households of any demographic. While the low participation rate has a variety of causes, a prominent explanation is the stigma associated with SNAP and welfare in general. Many factors contribute to a lack of access to food among seniors, including a lack of a substantial income, the gap between Medicaid and the cost of living, limited income with specialized diets, and mental and physical illnesses. The issues facing these populations must be viewed holistically, with SNAP as one piece of a larger solution to solving hunger for seniors.
According to research by the AARP Foundation—a charitable affiliate of AARP—over 17 percent of adults over the age of 40 are food-insecure. Among age cohorts over age 50, food insecurity was worse for the 50-59 age group, with over 10 percent experiencing either low or very low food security. Among the 60-69 age cohort, over 9 percent experienced similar levels of food insecurity, and over 6 percent among the 70+ population.
• The operation of the program is at the discretion of each state. For instance, in California, SNAP is a county-run program. In Texas, SNAP is administered by the state… Dr. Angela Rachidi of the American Enterprise Institute cited a specific example in New York City where SNAP, WIC, school food programs, and child and adult care programs are all administered by different agencies and the result is that each agency must determine eligibility and administer benefits separately.
K. Michael Conaway, Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture. Hearing of the House of Representatives, Committee on Agriculture. Past, Present, and Future of SNAP. February 25, 2015. Washington, D.C. Find report here
From CNN this week:
The number of people seeking emergency food assistance increased by an average of 2% in 2016, the United States Conference of Mayors said in its annual report Wednesday.
The majority, or 63%, of those seeking assistance were families, down from 67% a year ago, the survey found. However, the proportion of people who were employed and in need of food assistance rose sharply — increasing to 51% from 42%.