Tag Archives: food stamps

Making sure “farm-to-table” includes everybody’s table

Guest post by Sandy Veilleux, owner of Flora Bama Farms. FBF is a farmers market in Pensacola that recently installed free EBT-processing equipment from the Florida Department of Children and Families and U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Flora Bama Farms market

One Halloween when I was a child I volunteered to carve what seemed like hundreds of pumpkins. Why? To put them on the lights of the fire trucks and police cars as holiday décor for their patrols around the neighborhoods to keep residents safe. It was a pretty amazing – and unique – volunteer experience, and one my dad still likes to tell tall tales about.

The pumpkin effort was just one of the many volunteer activities I got myself into when I was young. My parents volunteered endless hours to help their community. It was instilled in me at a very young age that you always give back as much as you can.

Customers at Flora Bama Farms

Now, as an adult, what I know about most is food. So I am doing everything I can to find ways to make sure “farm-to-table” really includes everybody’s table. We want to stretch people’s money so they can eat really well and have the freshest food available.

Installing the free EBT-processing equipment from DCF and the USDA was just one quick way we can make it easier for people of all income levels to have access to great food – all while supporting local farmers! I just attach a bumper buddy to my iPhone and it’s done. It hooks up automatically to a printer, so it has been really easy to use. And did I mention it is FREE? Can’t get any better than that!

Our farmers Markets has partnered up with “Four Blades of Grass,” a chef based effort that provides fresh food to stuff backpacks for kids in school. Our kids are our future. You can’t grow minds on an empty stomach.

Flora Bama Farms yummy produce

These are just small ways we give back that are so easy for us to do because we know food. Giving people access to the things we know and the resources we have just makes sense.

I encourage all Florida farmers markets to take advantage of this free equipment. If your family is going to the market this weekend, be sure to ask if they accept EBT. It’s just one small way to make a huge difference in the health of your community.

Experiencing Poverty

Guest post by Jeanna Olson, DCF Northwest Region community development administrator. Jeanna was one of 23 Franklin County social service employees and residents participating in the Bridges to Circles poverty simulation. Franklin’s Promise Coalition and Catholic Charities of Northwest Florida sponsored the poverty simulation program at the St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Apalachicola.

I recently got a personal view of what it is like to experience poverty. According to the 2010 Census, 25.6 percent of the people in Franklin County live in poverty, compared to 13.8 percent statewide.

The poverty simulation breaks participants into family units, and each participant is assigned an age and identity. As a family (we were a married couple with two children, ages two and ten), we were given a list of our bills, some items we could pawn or trade, a title to a car (our family had a car; however, we couldn’t afford gas most weeks and had to walk or purchase bus tickets) and identification. There were various stations set up representing different places and agencies we could utilize, such as a bank, grocery store, food pantry, pawn shop, police station, court and a social service agency.

Social workers and residents participating in the poverty simulation

The program is broken into 15-minute time blocks, each representing a full week. We had to “survive” on what was in our packet. There were scenarios we had to “live” that really made me think about the struggles our clients experience on a day-to-day basis, a day much longer than 15 minutes.

Our day usually began with me (I was working and my spouse was unemployed) rushing to purchase gas and get to work. I was late to work one week and my salary was docked. Week two, I did not make it to work because I had some unexpected bills and was trying to help my spouse get his necessary paperwork for a job he found. Weeks three and four, I had to get walking passes to get to work, because my work paychecks had to pay for the rent. In the end, we never did make it to the food market.

If you have an opportunity to participate in a poverty simulation, I recommend that you take that opportunity. It really opened my eyes to the struggles our clients and neighbors are living with every day.

Franklin’s Promise Coalition hosted the simulation to bring awareness to other community partners and solicit Allies for the next step of the Bridges to Circles program. An Ally is a person living in middle class or wealth who volunteers to be an “intentional friend” to someone working on his or her plan to break out of the cycle of poverty and who has completed the “Getting Ahead in a Just Gettin’ by World” class. The goal is to create a mutually beneficial relationship with someone who is different from you so you can both grow and change and to help participants gain access to tools and resources to help them become self-sufficient.

Four individuals from the Bridges to Circles “Getting Ahead” class were at the poverty simulation. Each reported how much they appreciate the support and guidance they have found in the class and how they can work on their goals and get the support to reach them. Currently Franklin County has 27 individuals in the “Getting Ahead” class.

If you would like to participate in the Bridges to Circles program, please register at Volunteer Franklin.