THE CORNER FARMERS MARKET RESPONDS TO GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN WITH EXPANDED SUPPORT PROGRAMS FOR SNAP CUSTOMERS AND FEDERAL EMPLOYEES
GREENSBORO, N.C. — The month-long government shutdown is affecting more and more North Carolinians. Two groups hit especially hard are people who rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) –formerly known as food stamps— and federal workers who are currently working without pay or not working at all. The shutdown has many in these groups literally wondering if they will be able to feed their families.
In response to this current instability, The Corner Farmers Market will supplement the food budgets of those being affected. People receiving SNAP benefits or federal employees and contractors not receiving a paycheck can double up to $50 per week to purchase food from the market. Customers can choose between running their SNAP/EBT cards or doubling cash, the market will match either, dollar-for-dollar with food tokens that never expire.
Doubling SNAP benefits is a longstanding practice of TCFM and their seasonal sister market, the Grove Street Peoples Market, in Greensboro’s Glenwood neighborhood. In the past that doubling cap has been $30 per week for SNAP cardholders. When their monthly allotment runs out, the markets double cash for card holders. Now the cap has been raised to $50 and encompasses federal employees and contractors during the shutdown. This means a $50/week food budget turns into $100 of fresh, local foods. Customers can choose from local and organic produce, freshly picked apples from the NC mountains, staples like eggs, cheese, fresh baked bread and pasta. Stock up on pantry items like fresh cornmeal, herbs, flour, grits, and dried beans. Prepared items range from hummus to eggplant parmesan. Chicken, beef, pork, and duck are also available.
“A farmers market holds a unique place in a community. We all know each other and help out when times are hard,” says Mike Faucette, a fifth-generation family farmer in Browns Summit. “Just like our customers are aware when a real bad rainstorm wiped out half my strawberry crop, I know when they are hurting too. And when folks aren’t able to buy food at the market their family isn’t the only one who suffers, we are all in it together.”
What happened? Last week SNAP recipients were alerted by the NC Department of Health and Human Services that they would be getting their February benefits early. That seemingly good news came with an ominous warning that “since there will be no Food and Nutrition Service benefits issued in the month of February, plan accordingly.” Approximately 45,000 households in Guilford County rely on SNAP benefits. Even when the program is fully funded, the average monthly benefit is just $235 per household. (figures from FY 2017,
The shutdown has affected a wide range of employees in Guilford County. The Second Harvest Food Bank of NC estimates that about 800 federal workers are not receiving paychecks in Guilford County. Those impacted include about 200 defense employees, 250 treasury, 70 or so federal agricultural workers, a little over 100 social security workers, plus a spattering from Department of the Interior, Commerce, Veterans Affairs etc. Many of these federal workers a re also struggling to qualify for unemployment benefits since there is often no one in their workplace available to verify their status. For workers who have now gone three weeks without being paid, unemployment benefits could be a critical stopgap, even with unemployment benefits in Guilford County capping at $350 per week. The average weekly benefit is around $247.
So where does the money come from? How can people help? The Corner Farmers Market and Grove Street Peoples Market share a longstanding program to supplement the food budgets of their neediest neighbors. The Green for Greens program is a community supported fund that doubles the dollars SNAP customers spend at the market. The program started with a small grant from Cone Health in (2015-16), and customers began to rely on the market as not only a critical source of fresh foods but also of community support and connection. These additional shoppers also help the small food producers at the market stay afloat, so the program provides a double benefit. When the grant funding ran out, the market community rallied and raised the money to keep the program going into the present.
The increased demands of the current situation will strain the fund and the markets are encouraging neighbors and civic groups to make tax deductible donations to the Green for Greens fund today. Go to www.cornermarketgso.com and under Green for Greens, click the green “make a donation” button. Or checks can be mailed to:
The Corner Farmers Market
℅ Stephen Johnson
712 S. Elam Avenue
Greensboro, NC 27403
Established in 2013, The Corner Farmers Market is held year-round every Saturday morning from 9:00 am to noon at the corner of Walker and S. Elam Avenues at Sticks & Stones Clay Oven Pizzeria in the Lindley Park neighborhood. In April, The Grove Street Peoples Market will open for its fifth season in the Glenwood neighborhood. All funding donated to the Green for Greens program benefits customers at both markets.