farmer's market, food, Healthy, non-gmo, nourishment, Public Assistance, shopping

An Edible Caste System: Change is Upon Us (Part 2)

Before I begin part 2, I want to ask you, my WordPress family, if you would please join the Really Nourish mailing list.  I would like to keep you up-to-date with the next endeavors in a more personal way, including my efforts to assist the Commonwealth of Dominica, where Hurricane Maria first made landfall, my upcoming book, and more.

Please click here to opt in.  Thank you, and I look forward to taking you along on this journey!


That Food Desert Life

Traveling long distances to have access to better nutrition is unfair.  It is what characterizes a food desert.  You are supposed to be able to access nutrition (not just “stuff you can eat”, but actual food with the nutritional value God put in it unadulterated by copious processing and chemical intervention) close to home.  That’s your birthright.  Even after Eden, no one had to really travel for days to get food on a regular basis.  You could grow it right there at your feet, outside your front and/or back tent flap, as it were.   So this Food Desert thing is a problem, and it plays out as a problem for the proletariat – working class folk who, like I just indicated, do work indeed, but because of the crazy

Really Nourish Delicata Squash
This local, organic Delicata Squash was only 81 cents! Judah was very pleased 🙂

dynamics of the American economy, still need help feeding their family.  We are not supposed to have this problem at all!  Even the money you have to put in the gas tank or spend on public transportation to travel to a more affluent area to shop in a better supermarket makes a difference in such households.  On top of the cost of transportation that you can count is the cost of the time it takes to make this journey.  That is a more difficult cost to count for some.  For me, it was somewhere between $105-$140, because I was blessed to be working from home and I made $35/hour, it took me at least an hour each way to travel plus time to search diligently for the sales and selecting in season, organic produce so I could get the most nutrition for the dollars I had available.  And the only dollars I had available were on that little white card.

Now, what if you could use your SNAP card to get your groceries online, free delivery?  This thought crossed my mind numerous times.  I even called Fresh Direct once to ask, and they said regrettably, no, we cannot take that form of payment.  Yet. In 2014.

It’s a New Day

I did say change is upon us, right?   In an era when our president is the least sympathetic to those of us who have to be careful with every dollar and are affected by small changes in income and benefit amounts, what change?

This time last year, in September 2016, a quiet but hugely significant victory was fresh.  The push to allow SNAP recipients to use their benefit card to order food online was a success, championed by Gunnar Lovelace, founder of online non-gmo and organic wholesale club Thrive Market, and backed by more than 310,000 signers on a petition, Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Representatives Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Tim Ryan (D-OH) and a handful of celebrities, fellow retailers and non-profit organizations.

The USDA launched the pilot program this year in several states with Amazon, Fresh Direct, Hy-Vee, Safeway and a selection of other grocers.  I’m not sure how much they are publicizing it but if you live in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, or Iowa and have not heard anything, you should go find out immediately how you can take advantage of this breakthrough opportunity to be released from the bonds of food desert life.  Conspicuously, Thrive Market was not included in the pilot program, but a small crack in the dam has happened, and the hood gon’ eat like Park Avenue now.

Benefits with Benefits

Farmer's Market Carrots
We got these with Health Bucks at the St. George Greenmarket in Staten Island, NY

Past SNAP advances that have actually attempted to focus on nutrition include Health Bucks and farmers markets and allowing the purchase of seedlings for food plants with your benefit card.  These kinds of changes, coupled with more awareness among the general population about the links between food and health, will make a greater impact on the healthcare crisis we have on our hands than any other technology, new medications, or medical procedures.

With success in the pilot, more states and more retail options will continue to open up, and Thrive will take its rightful place among the available options for SNAP benefit recipients.  Coupled with their commitment to giving a free membership to a low income family for every paid membership, they will be a part of leveling the playing field of nutrition access, and the edible caste system will be chopped and screwed.

Click Here to read Gunnar Lovelace’s blog post from September 2016 about this triumph

Click Here for an update in The Daily Caller on the launch of the pilot program

Click Here if you still aren’t thriving and you’re ready to start.  You get a 30 day free trial, 25% off your first and free shipping!

Here’s my personal story about SNAP, food desert life, and Thrive Market. Please share yours in the comments.

eating, food, Healthy, nourishment, shopping

An Edible Caste System: Change is Upon Us (Part 1)

When my son was just born and my daughter was around 4 years old, I had WIC.  I am a second generation New York City WIC recipient.  In the interview, I happily declined the offer of baby formula, because I was breastfeeding successfully.  What I did get was the opportunity to exchange checks for a variety of groceries.  What I didn’t get was a choice in exactly what groceries those were.

I learned a lot about benefit programs during that time.  It was abundantly clear that there are other entities, powerful and wealthy ones, that also benefit from my benefit.  To name a few, Post, General Mills and Kellogg’s, because I was allowed to get their cereals and theirs alone, as well as the Dairy Farmers of America, who no doubt were able to sell millions of gallons of milk and pounds of cheese through WIC.  The problem? While I was able to get copious amounts of these items, I was only given $6 a week towards fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables.  That was my only opportunity to buy anything that wasn’t a product or byproduct of GMO corn and soy, and the only time I could buy anything organic.  A pound of organic strawberries was $5.99.

Then there was the time that I figured out that I could get organic peanut butter.  See, they hadn’t gotten around to striking deals with guys like Jif yet, I guess, so they only specified what size of peanut butter you could get.  Because there were no other restrictions, I strode happily into PathMark with my WIC checks in my purse and grabbed the organic peanut butter in the correct size off the shelf.  The cashier looked puzzled, asked a manager, and in the end I got it because there was no notation on the check forbidding it.  Clearly, big brother was watching, because the next set of checks I got had (no organic) printed next to peanut butter on every one.  Wow.  So because I was poor, I had to eat the poisons and feed them to my child as well.  Is it possible that the chemical companies also have a stake in the WIC program?

Thankfully there are no such restrictions on what is now known as SNAP.  You can buy anything edible with that benefit, but for me, it wasn’t about backing cupboards with calories, it was about getting the best possible quality of food I could afford.  The problem was not about the benefit in this case, it was about access.  Until my son was 2, the only supermarket in walking distance from my home was Western Beef.  Here are there stats:

Organic Produce: 0

Organic Baby Cereal: 0

Organic Anything: 0

So at first I would take a 40 minute bus ride to a nicer neighborhood (read less people of color, more white people, no housing projects or even apartment buildings, most fellow shoppers drove there in their own vehicle)  to shop at ShopRite.  I would spend $5.00 round trip getting there, then another $5.00 organizing to have the groceries delivered to my home later that day.  Still, the organic produce selection at the time was minimal, but I was able to get the organic baby cereal and a lot of other organic foods in the aisles.  No organic or grass-fed meats were available there (I wasn’t vegan yet).

Soon, KeyFood opened, but to my chagrin, I discovered that their organic selection was only slightly better than at “The Beef”.  Then I figured out that I could get to WholeFoods in TriBeCa without spending money on transportation.  I mapped it once, it’s a 14 mile trip.  It involved a 10 minute walk from my home to the Staten Island Ferry Terminal, hopefully arriving in time to walk right on a ferry that is boarding, then on  arrival in Manhattan, boarding a free Downtown Manhattan loop bus that would drop me right outside the supermarket.  It could take anywhere from 1- 1 1/2 hours one way, depending on the ferry schedule, bus stop waiting and traffic.   (“Wrote a poem about it, like to hear it?  Here it go!”)

The downside: they could not deliver my groceries, so I had to make frequent trips and carry heavy loads, sometimes with both children in tow.  I continued to do it, even after I got off of the benefit programs, because it was worth it to me to really nourish myself and my family, which soon grew again by one when my dad came to live with me for a time.

One day it dawned on me: if I lived closer to this supermarket, that would be so nice.  If only I could afford a swank apartment in shiny Battery Park City… but indeed I could not.  The edible caste system at work, ladies and gentlemen: those who have plenty get more nutrients closer to home, and those who don’t either have to make long journeys to the wealthier neighborhoods and look for in season organics and sales in at a high quality, high priced grocer, or just stay malnourished.

The good news is that prayers have been answered and change is upon us.  The edible caste system is about to be shattered, and food deserts are about to be flooded with better food.  How, you ask?  Be sure to read part two when I post it…

In the meantime, please share your food desert confessions in the comments section.  I would love to know how fellow parents are handling this problem and getting cleaner, more nourishing food for the families in spite of financial and geographic obstacles.

Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.

3 John 1:2 NIV