Eating Healthy Can Be Affordable
While many are prepping their gardens for produce in the coming months, local Farmer’s Markets opened to share their seasonal bounty with the community. Nutritious food is a necessity for all, but many find it expensive or difficult to incorporate into their diet.
Food options are costly, especially for families. An article by USA Today notes that West Virginia is the fourth largest state for recipients of SNAP benefits. Approximately 20% of the population receives some form of food assistance. Unfortunately, the cheapest food is often heavily processed with high amounts of sugar, sodium and added chemicals.
WV FreshHealthy Bucks
A local program is working to provide greater access to fresh, healthy and local foods.
The WV FresHealthy Bucks program helps individuals and families with SNAP benefits get more for their dollar at their local, participating farmer’s market. They can swipe their EBT card to gain vouchers to use at the market. Every dollar doubles, so $10 dollars turns into $20 dollars, $20 dollars turns into $40 dollars, etc.
There are participating farmer’s markets in Jefferson, Berkeley, and Morgan counties, which is great news for the Eastern Panhandle. I spoke with James Hersick, an organizer for the Martinsburg Farmers Market. James noted that the market is in the final stages of accepting the program. Two different types of vouchers are available. One voucher is for fruits and vegetables, and the other helps with eligible products like breads and cereals, fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, poultry, dairy products, seeds and some plants.
Benefits Of Eating Local
Our local economy benefits when we buy from our friends and neighbors who grow food just miles from our home. Eating seasonal produce helps the environment because less fuel is used for transport. Access to nutrient-dense food also supports our emotional, mental, and physical health by providing us with the essential vitamins and minerals we need to thrive. If you have a history of only eating fast food or prepackaged food products, it can be stressful to transition to a healthier diet. Learning to cook your own food eases that stress.
Eat Well On A Budget
A great resource to help gain confidence in the kitchen is a cookbook called Good and Cheap, Eat Well on 4 dollars a Day. This cookbook is free to download and provides recipes for low-income families and food stamps recipients. Leanne Brown created it while working toward her degree in food studies.
“I think everyone should eat great food every day. Eating well means learning to cook. It means banishing the mindset that preparing daily meals is a huge chore or takes tremendous skill. Cooking is easy — you just have to practice. “
Leanne’s cookbook is available in print edition as well. As an added bonus, with every print book purchased, a copy is donated to someone in need.
Grow Your Own Food
If you do not have access to your own garden area or want to learn gardening basics, the Burke Street Promise Neighborhood Initiative is currently taking applications for community members interested in their Garden of Promise Community Garden. Free 4’ x 12’ raised garden beds are available for habitat families, residents of the Burke Street Elementary School attendance area and community members. Applications are available online. Community gardens are a great place to establish connections with neighbors, learn new skills and meet new people. Growing food for yourself and others also provides a sense of accomplishment and pride.
Emily Gilmore, with the West Virginia Americorps Vista program, is working with the Burke Street Promise Neighborhood to assist with this initiative.
Consider attending your local farmer’s market and participate in a community garden near you. Share this article with those looking for healthy food on a small budget.