One Re:Farm program participant would frequently supplement his family’s meals with food from a food bank. Once, our Promotora and SNAP Program Manager, Matilde Garcia Rubio, compared the nutritional information of a block of cheese he received from a local food bank and noticed the fat content was double that of a standard block of cheese. After more than a year of encouraging him to apply for the program, she used this example as a way to finally convince him he could not provide his family well balanced meals from food banks. So, he applied and now he says for the first time in 10 years, they are not worried about where their next meal will come from.
Another woman who participates in our Re:Farm program had the courage to leave an abusive relationship. After doing some math, she realized that she could cover her rent, and use SNAP benefits to help feed her family. She feels that without that help, she would have had to return to her marriage just to make ends meet.
But what about families who cannot have a garden? Food, especially healthy food and fresh, unprocessed produce, can get expensive, and when you are on a limited budget, often times those are the first items to go in favor of more shelf-stable items that stretch further. According to this New York Times blog 1,000 calories of fresh, nutritious foods can cost $18, vs $1.75 for processed foods. So it makes all the sense in the world that when families are having to stretch their food budgets, fresh, nutritious food is cut first. Studies have shown that SNAP recipients actually have better health indicators and lower risks for diet-related illnesses. So investing in SNAP is investing in our public health. That’s where the Westwood Food Co-Op comes in. A grocery store owned by the community, the Co-Op stocks affordable and healthy foods, accepts SNAP benefits and participates in the Double Up Food Bucks program. This program provides $20 for every $20 spent that can be used to purchase local and fresh produce. During the growing season, the Co-Op is almost bursting at the seems with produce from Re:Vision’s urban farm. It provides a community that otherwise has no access to healthy food with a variety of options.
As an organization, we provide the community with options to take control of their own health and become an active participant in growing their own sustainable change. We have worked for two years to help de-stigmatize SNAP benefits and de-mystify SNAP enrollment. Our Re:Farm program and the Westwood Food Co-Op also work together to provide supplements to create an overall healthy life, one that doesn’t come in a box, it is one that has to be cultivated, and earned, and our beautiful and vibrant community is doing that daily.