Planting the seed: Affordable healthy food

Food stamps go further at farmers market; food policy council effort stalls
Thursday, November 10, 2011 | 12:01 a.m. CST

COLUMBIA — Other Unite 4 Healthy Neighborhoods projects aim to make healthy food more accessible and create a food policy council. While the accessibility team has moved forward and doubled the amount of produce food stamps can buy at the Columbia Farmers Market, the food policy council issue has been put on the back-burner as other efforts take precedence.

Accessible and affordable food

For $25 worth of food stamps, clients of Women, Infants and Children can get $50 of food at the Columbia Farmers Market. 

There are 50 families signed up, and about eight or nine come each week, according to Hannah Sims, an intern with the team looking into access to healthy foods.

The effort to better connect low-income residents with the Columbia Farmers Market was started by Sustainable Farms & Communities. Grant money covered the $25 difference and contributed funds for potted herbs.

One of the challenges was reaching out to people who didn't already come to the farmers market. Of the people using the "double dollars," almost all had visited the farmers market before, Sims said. 

The access to healthy foods team is working to secure a health department grant to continue the program next year and expand its reach.

For families, the project has been "extremely helpful in letting them stretch their money," Sims said. "They've just been thrilled."

Food policy council

Food policy councils have sprung up around the country to address how food is produced, purchased and consumed at the community level.

There is discussion about starting a food policy council in Columbia. PedNet Executive Director Ian Thomas presented the idea to the board of health and is getting feedback. Since the city is trying to reduce its number of boards and commissions, there might be a short-term food policy task force created, Adam Saunders, president of the Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture, said.  

There hasn't been as much work done on food policy because other projects, such as public transportation, were given priority.

"The food policy thing has kind of been in a holding pattern because those squeaky wheels got a lot of attention," Saunders said. 

Healthy Community Initiatives Director Sam Robinson said he and his staff will be “instrumental” in finding community participation for a food policy council when that time comes.

Next page | High school students learn to promote healthy, active lifestyles

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