As the COVID-19 crisis unfolds across the country, our mission has come into focus more than ever before: Americans need access to nutritious, affordable food.
Since we are a community-based organization, we have been working hard to prioritize and, in some cases, re-envision our programming to ensure we are safely meeting the needs of the communities we serve during this tumultuous time. Here’s how we’re adapting our programming over the coming weeks and months:
· Farmers markets: Our three year-round Philadelphia farmers markets (Fitler Square, Clark Park and Headhouse) are remaining open, with additional safety precautions designed to keep customers, farmers and staff safe. During this crisis, farmers markets remain a critical point of access for affordable, healthy food, particularly for individuals relying on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) program. As always, our markets accept SNAP benefits (food stamps), and offer Food Bucks nutrition incentives to help SNAP users stretch their food dollars. Some market vendors are exploring pre-order and pre-payment options for their offerings, and we will share out that information as it becomes available.
· Corner stores: We are now offering fully remote support for small food retailers – those bodegas, corner stores and other outlets that play a crucial role in neighborhood food access. Because news changes so rapidly and varies by region, we have launched private Facebook groups for store owners in our three focus areas of Philadelphia, Camden and San Jose. These groups are helping business owners connect with each other and allow our staff to share important updates and resources to help store owners through the crisis, such as safety guidelines, local paid sick leave policies and emergency funds for infrastructure.
· Healthy food incentives: We know that our Food Bucks network provides a crucial safety net for families relying on SNAP, so we are continuing to distribute these coupons at farmers markets, grocery stores and corner stores so that shoppers can bring home more fruits and vegetables. We are looking to increase our distribution to keep up with demand, and we are exploring additional retail and healthcare partnerships to reach more families in need.
· Nutrition education: Our nutrition educators are working hard to develop plans for virtual learning at our schools and community sites. In the meantime, the team is in full swing planning for the upcoming farmers market season and fall programming.
· Healthy food financing: We continue to advocate for financing programs that provide much-needed support for grocers and other healthy food retailers on the front lines in underserved communities. Now more than ever, we need to make sure grocery stores – our most critical point of access across the country and important venues for SNAP and WIC redemption – have the support they need to feed our communities.
In times of crisis, no one should have to choose between eating healthy and eating enough. If you’re interested in collaborating with The Food Trust on virtual programming, community-based food access or other initiatives, please reach out to .
Since 1992, The Food Trust has been working to ensure that everyone has access to affordable, nutritious food and information to make healthy decisions.
The Food Trust's comprehensive approach includes improving food environments and teaching nutrition education in schools; working with corner store owners to increase healthy offerings and helping customers make healthier choices; managing farmers markets in communities that lack access to affordable produce; and encouraging grocery store development in underserved communities.
Understanding the Importance of Food Access
"We know that a lot of things contribute to poor nutrition and obesity, but access is a key issue," says Dr. Giridhar Mallya. "People don't have the ability to get healthy foods in their community at an affordable price. That makes it that much harder for them to be healthy overall."
At The Food Trust, we work on programs and policies supporting healthy food access wherever food is sold or served. We encourage healthy retail development in underserved communities, teach kids how to eat healthy in schools, host cooking demonstrations at recreation centers, run farmers markets in neighborhoods, support farm to school initiatives, and provide incentives for increased consumption of fruits and vegetables. All of these things combined is what can improve the health of people and our neighborhoods.