It’s National Farmers Market Week. Let’s make sure everyone can enjoy it.
August 8, 2018
While many Marylanders are celebrating National Farmers Market Week with locally grown produce, not everyone has this privilege. Governor Hogan has the power to change this, but he needs to hear from people like you that access to quality food for low-income Marylanders should be a priority for his administration.
Please fill out the form below to send a message to Gov. Hogan asking for his support. The Hogan administration requires a phone number to submit feedback as well as a letter topic, we suggest Economic Development. To increase your impact, please customize your message. This action opportunity is only open to Maryland residents.
While Maryland is the wealthiest state in the nation, one in ten households are food-insecure and 12 percent of state residents are recipients of SNAP (food stamps). These numbers are disproportionately stark for communities of color. While nearly ten percent of Marylanders live below the poverty line, that number jumps to about 14 percent for African American and Hispanic households. A recent analysis from the Maryland Center on Economic Policy found that counties with larger shares of Black residents were more likely to live far from a grocery store or face challenges affording food.
Everyone should be able to enjoy our local farmers markets, regardless of income.
One program that aims to address this inequality is the Maryland Farmers Market Association’s Maryland Market Money initiative. Maryland Market Money doubles farmers market purchases made using federal nutrition benefits, helping low-income families stretch their budgets and purchase healthy, fresh food. During the 2017 season, the program served 19,161 Marylanders who spent over $333,000 with 237 local farmers.
This type of matching program is not new for Maryland. In fact, Montgomery County’s Crossroads Farmers Market was home to the country’s very first matching program for low-income individuals in 2007. Similar programs have quickly spread throughout the country, benefiting both food-insecure families and local farmers selling at markets.
Unfortunately, demand for the Maryland Market Money matching program far exceeds its current funding. Yet with the stroke of a pen, Governor Hogan can simultaneously fight hunger in Maryland and support local farmers.
The Maryland Farms and Families Act, which passed the General Assembly unanimously during the 2017 legislative session and Governor Hogan signed into law, created an unfunded grant program within the Maryland Department of Agriculture that would support matching programs at Maryland farmers markets. While Gov. Hogan did not include the Farms and Families Program in his 2019 budget, the Maryland General Assembly “fenced off ” $200,000 for the program in their final budget that passed this March. However, Governor Hogan has yet to release these resources from the State Reserve Fund for the Department of Agriculture to implement the program.
Living in poverty is getting increasingly perilous. Significant changes to SNAP are being considered in the current federal Farm Bill negotiations that would lead to increased hunger and inadequate nutrition for an estimated two million individuals, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. With Maryland’s poverty rate rising 19 percent between 1990 and 2016, now is not the time for cuts like these to one of our country’s most crucial social safety nets, and the millions of food-insecure people it supports. Maryland’s Farms and Families Program stands in stark contrast to these federal threats. We have the opportunity to simultaneously support agricultural producers, low-income consumers, and local economies in a meaningful, yet cost-effective way.
Every Maryland family should be able to access fresh and healthy food. Now is the time for Maryland to be a national leader and support our local communities. Now is the time for Governor Hogan to fund the Farms and Families Program.