Three-quarters of Americans support a nationwide program to double the value of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits (formerly food stamps) when used at farmers markets, according to a recent survey commissioned by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. The poll finds strong support for making produce affordable and accessible to all Americans and that, officials at all levels—national, state and local—have a role to play in ensuring that access.
“Americans want produce that is healthy, affordable, green and fair,” said Dr. Gail Christopher, VP of program strategy at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. “We see strong support here for food that is good not only for the people eating it, but also for the people producing it.”
The survey was released Tuesday at the foundation’s Food & Community Conference, a gathering of more than 600 active participants in the good food movement, including farmers, school food workers, academics, urban agriculture pioneers, filmmakers, health activists, writers and more.
In the poll, 68 percent of those surveyed said it was “very important” that all Americans have equal access to fresh fruits and vegetables; an additional 25 percent said it is “somewhat important.”
Michigan’s Double Up Food Bucks has worked successfully to increase access to fresh produce among low-income families by doubling the value of SNAP benefits at farmers markets. Seventy-five percent of poll participants said they support a similar program at the national level as a way to help American produce farmers and low-income families.
Strong support for farm workers and local growers
Respondents also showed support for those harvesting their produce. Asked if they would be willing to pay $1.50 more for produce each month to ensure fair wages are paid to those picking fruits and vegetables, 88 percent strongly or partly agreed. A study by the Economic Policy Institute said such a raise would increase the pay of a farm worker making $10,000 a year to $14,000, which would be above the poverty line.
Americans also stand behind their local growers. More than 80 percent strongly or partly agreed that Washington, D.C., should shift its support toward smaller, local fruit and vegetable farmers and away from large farm businesses. Nearly 90 percent strongly or partly agreed they would pay more for produce if that money stayed in the community.
In addition, those surveyed said national, state and local officials, as well as community members, have a role to play in ensuring that people have access to local, fresh produce:
• Eighty-one percent strongly or partly agree that Washington, D.C., needs to do more to increase access to locally produced fruits and vegetables;
• Eighty-six percent strongly or partly agree that state and local officials should play a role in ensuring access to local, fresh food; and
• Eighty-nine percent strongly or partly agree that the community needs to play a role in ensuring access to local, fresh food.
Moreover, people are putting both money and time into supporting local, fresh produce. Seventy percent reported shopping at farmers markets in the past year, while 45 percent said they’d gotten food from their own garden or farm. Sixty-eight percent said they eat more fresh produce than they did five years ago.
“Americans are telling us they support a values-based food system,” Christopher said. “They favor locally grown and produced food, community involvement, sustainability and fairness, which helps to ensure safe, healthy and affordable food for everyone.”
In the featured photo at top: Many farmers markets, like this one in Healdsburg, Calif., now accept payment via the federal SNAP, previously known as food stamps. (Photo courtesy of Melanie Wong)