Change to SNAP impacts us all–Kentucky Farmers Speak up

By Rae Strobel & Adam Barr, Barr Farms, Meade County, Kentucky

Rhodelia, Kentucky (1).png

As farmers who raise high quality fresh, organic vegetables, we want anyone who wants to eat this food to be able to get it; we don’t want our high quality food to be a luxury. Earlier this month, we joined Community Farm Alliance staff and members, representing over 41 Kentucky farmers markets, to celebrate the success of the Kentucky Double Dollars Program. Through the program, SNAP, WIC, and Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program vouchers can be doubled at local farmers markets. This incentive program not only helps limited income families access fresh, local produce, but is also an economic driver for small farm families throughout our state. In fact, $91,000 was redeemed during the 2018 season and the program continues to grow. However, our celebrations were cut short by the news of another proposed rule attempting to limit access to SNAP dollars.

Building food justice and access into our business has been a priority for our farm from the beginning. It’s one reason we attend the Phoenix Hill/Nulu Farmers Market in Louisville, where we estimate that 5-10% of that market’s sales go to families on one of the nutrition assistance programs. Which means, a chunk of our sales not only benefit our bottom line as a farm business, but also contribute to everyone having access. Additionally, we sell to New Roots Fresh Stop Markets, community-driven pop-up food markets that provide local veggies to 400 families who pay on a sliding scale model. These families could be significantly impacted by this new rule, along with the Fresh Stop Market model.. If SNAP dollars are

limited, the number of people eating healthy, local food will decline, which also means less income for local farms raising food. Our farm operates on thin margins, as many farms do. Limiting SNAP dollars would be a hit on our business, and would make it more difficult to fulfill our farm values of food justice and quality food for everyone.

Last year, a new work requirement for Kentucky SNAP recipients forced 10,000 Kentuckians out of the program and Kentucky farmers took a hit in sales. The new proposed SNAP rule is another attempt to add work requirements and push people off of the program. This rule would result in 3 million people nationwide losing access to SNAP, and subsequently result in lower use of Kentucky Double Dollars which means less money in farmers’ pockets.

In addition, as farmers, we live in a rural area where many of our neighbors are on assistance because of a lack of good jobs. Our local grocery stores have a fairly high percentage of SNAP users. These stores aren’t just places to get food. They support the local schools in fall fundraising events, are a place where neighbors run into each other to catch up, and provide space for seniors to spend a little time and have social interactions. So much would be lost without these gathering places, which could also close due to the decrease in SNAP usage.

The people we know on SNAP, in our community, are hard-working couples with young kids. Some are starting their own small businesses. Some people are canning their bounty to get through the winter. Some are beginning farmers. All are just trying to feed themselves.

Let’s come together and move past these divisive narratives about who is worthy of food assistance. The truth is that it’s not just individuals who benefit from the safety net programs. Our rural communities and farmers rely on these customers. With the SNAP dollars spent at grocery stores, they are staying in business also, which means more local jobs and food for all of us regardless of our incomes. Let’s stop pointing blame at our neighbors who need extra help and ask how we all benefit when everyone is fed.

Please join us in speaking up against this proposed rule. Tell the USDA and our legislators that SNAP is important for food access and beyond. Tell them to protect our farmers and rural communities. Share your SNAP story or how someone you know will be impacted.