Thursday, March 30, 2017

Webb City Sentinel market column - March 31, 2017

Tomorrow is expected to feel like spring (maybe even summer) and that means gardeners will be eager to get into their gardens. Just in the nick of time, Tim and Vi Green are coming to the market with their healthy, sturdy tomato plants. They will have Big Boy, Better Boy, Big Beef, Roma, Jet Star and four varieties of cherry tomatoes. Other growers will have heirloom tomato varieties. 

Other plants like hanging baskets from Braker and E & O won’t be far behind. Joe Palmer spent much of the winter making his rustic planters in the form of benches, beds, wagons and more, and will soon have those at the market too. If you have something special in mind, let Joe know. 

In other words, if you need vegetable plants or flowers, check at the market. You’ll get top quality and locally grown.

Pete Roffmann returns to the market tomorrow with 50 pounds of asparagus!  The supply should get better every week because many of our farms have large asparagus beds.

Something else new tomorrow – Oakwoods will have shiitake mushrooms!

The Kids Garden Club is celebrating spring tomorrow by planting impatiens and pansies. The kids will also make a flower craft.

William Adkins will grace the market stage tomorrow. Breakfast will be biscuit and gravy, scrambled eggs, sausage and hash brown casserole. Stewart’s Bakery will have honey glazed chicken thighs on rice for eat-in or take out.

The market starts its third year of matching food stamp purchases tomorrow. This program which is currently funded as a federal research project is switching over this year to funding from private foundation sources. We are excited about that because we knew from the beginning that the federal funding was tied to a short-term research project but that our low-income customers need long term access to healthy food. We will still be collecting data for the private funders but the prospects look very good for long term funding.

The match allows us to match up to $25 of food stamp tokens with up to $25 of free fruit and veggie only tokens on every market day. The research project is to determine whether offering an incentive or designating fruit and veggie only spending improves the diets of low income people. We don’t see the survey results but we do hear from our customers. 

We received a message from one of our customers last year who used the match a lot and dramatically increased the amount of fruits and vegetables in her diet. Like many of our food stamp customers, this customer has very significant health issues. Her message?  “I just got back from the doctor and I am no longer pre-diabetic!  Please let your funders know.”  And that is just one of the many celebrations the program engenders. 

Last August we had a mom who had used the match program regularly all summer. She had gotten a job and would be going off the program (high fives all around the information table at that announcement) but because getting a job ended her food stamp benefits and she wouldn’t get paid for at least two weeks after starting her new job, she had to feed herself and her young son were looking at a very lean two weeks. “Please take all the money off my food stamp card and match as much as you can.”  She said and then turned to her son “we’re going to be vegetarians this month and we’re going to love it, because we’ve learned at the market that we love our veggies, haven’t we?”
So if you or someone you know is depending on food stamps, tell them to come to the market information table and stretch their benefits to include more fruits and veggies.

And while those of us fortunate enough not to qualify for food stamps can’t take advantage of the match, we can take advantage of the health benefits that eating more fresh, local produce brings. Here’s to better health for everyone in our communities! And to Spring! 

See you at the market.