Union Square Main Streets raises funds for Union Square Farmers Market’s local SNAP match
For the sixth year in a row, Union Square Main Streets and local businesses proudly present Good Food for All, happening June 17 through 24. This week-long community campaign raises awareness and funds for the Union Square Farmers Market’s local SNAP match. This match allows people to double their buying power at the Market—through the match, $15 becomes $30. As a relatively new Union Square business owner and graduate student in nutrition policy and programming at the Tufts Friedman School, I am excited to take part in a campaign that has made such a large impact on our broader community. Thanks to a partnership with the City of Somerville, all Somerville farmers markets now offer a SNAP match program to complement Union Square’s efforts.
SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly food stamps) is a federally-funded, state-administered program that provides financial support to low-income people for certain food purchases. It directly addresses food insecurity, which per the USDA is the “lack of consistent access to enough food for every person in the house to live an active healthy lifestyle.” Food insecurity is not just the inability to afford food, it is also the lack of access to quality food. Food insecurity occurs for a variety of reasons, many of which are overlapping and intersecting, and it often falls under the broad umbrella of issues of food justice, often intersecting with racial justice and immigration status.
USFM’s SNAP match advances a proposition often centered in the food justice landscape: knowing your food and food quality matters deeply. Programs, like our SNAP match, increase equity and justice. This is deeply needed in Somerville and the United States as a whole.
This is made obvious by some perhaps lesser-known truths. Lack of quality diet is the number one cause of death in the US contributing to over 678,000 deaths annually, relating to a variety of causes including heart disease, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. Any program that decreases food insecurity has a demonstrably positive impact on disease, from onset through outcome. And at the same time, a 2019 government survey found that 12.3% adults met the recommended fruit consumption, and only 10% of adults met a vegetable intake of 2-3 cups per day.
With survey results like that, it’s no wonder that match programs like ours are linked both to increased health and wellness and to decreased health care use and spending, as they specifically increase fruit and vegetable purchasing power. These benefits are not just extended to the people who receive SNAP, but society writ large. The farmers market SNAP match heads on these two important nutrition tenants: increasing both food security, and fruit and vegetable consumption.
As the co-Founder of a business centered on the experiences of historically marginalized people, I love our beautiful city and think of it as a progressive haven, at the forefront of public policy. And still, the amount of people in Somerville experiencing food insecurity has increased substantially since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic; demand for the SNAP match at USFM immediately increased 217%. Just in the first month of this market season alone, there has been a 39% increase in participation in the Union Square Farmers Market’s SNAP match.
Even though from a policy standpoint, we are living in a “post-pandemic” world, its impacts are still felt deeply and frequently. Increasing food insecurity is just one of many interrelated outcomes, and I encourage everyone to come to the table and give to Good Food For All. These actions that we take to support our community reverberate out, improving the world as a whole. To learn more about how you can help, visit Union Square Main Streets’ website at unionsquaremain.org.
Emily Kaplan is an owner of P+E Wellness and a Tufts Friedman MS candidate 2024.