Fresh Bucks helping Casa Latina clients eat healthier

Clients at Casa Latina recently had front row seats to a live cooking class as they learned about healthy, affordable meals on a budget. And now, buying fruits and vegetables to make healthy meals for their families just got easier thanks to a partnership between Casa Latina and the Fresh Bucks program.

The Fresh Bucks program is working with Casa Latina to provide Fresh Bucks vouchers for Casa Latina clients to buy high-quality, local produce from any of the 33 farmers markets or six neighborhood grocery stores participating in the Fresh Bucks program in Seattle and King County.

Casa Latina, an immigrant worker rights organization, empowers low-wage Latino immigrants with knowledge and resources to achieve their goals. Araceli Hernandez, Director of Day Worker Center at Casa Latina says, “Our clients face a number of barriers when it comes to accessing federal resources and we work to identify and address gaps— such as food insecurity—that are disproportionally affecting our community. Partnering with the Fresh Bucks program gives our clients the ability to choose healthy foods, regardless of income.”

This year, Fresh Bucks is serving more shoppers by expanding the program from EBT/SNAP (food stamp) recipients to also providing the benefit to families who may not meet the federal requirements for food assistance programs, but still face hardships when it comes covering their food expenses. This expansion is made possible through funding from the City of Seattle Sweetened Beverage Tax.

“This program allows me to stretch my dollar,” said a program participant. “Buying fresh fruits and vegetables can be expensive, but with this support, I can now regularly visit the farmers market to get my produce, and the kids love going too. I want to teach them what I’ve learned about cooking with fresh ingredients.”

Shoppers can use Fresh Bucks at 33 farmers markets in Seattle and King County, as well as six, ethnic grocery stores open year-round. To find participating locations or to find out more about the Fresh Bucks program, visit the Fresh Bucks website.

Unlimited Fresh Bucks Match Now Available

Many families rely on monthly SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits to help put enough food on the table. However, when people are on a tight food budget, one of the first things that is dropped is fresh fruits and vegetables as they tend to be more expensive than processed food.

To address this challenge, the City of Seattle launched Fresh Bucks in 2012. Since then, shoppers have been able to spend up to $10 in SNAP benefits and receive a $10 match in Fresh Bucks towards their purchase of locally sourced fruits and vegetables at Farmer’s Markets and select retail stores. Fresh Bucks is a solution that helps low-income residents afford healthy foods, diversifies the customer base of farmers markets, and keeps federal food stamp dollars in our regional economy.

The program continues to grow and recently, in response to feedback from Fresh Bucks participants, the City lifted the $10 match limit for Fresh Bucks. Now, shoppers are free to get a match for any amount of SNAP benefits spent purchasing fruits and vegetables.

Sam Kielty, who manages the West Seattle Farmers Market, reports that there has been a noticeable change with shoppers purchasing more fruits and vegetables. At the Farmers Market info booth, shoppers have a chance to share their Fresh Bucks story if they choose. Sam shared a story submitted by “Emily” a single mother who Sam sees often at the West Seattle Farmers Market.

“After my husband died, my car got repossessed and I lost my job. My main worry was being able to afford nutritious food. After receiving SNAP benefits and learning they were accepted at my local farmers market, grocery shopping became a fun and educational outing for my daughter and I. She learns about the farming community. I am assured she’s receiving the freshest food possible.” – Emily

Special thank you to Sam for sharing a great story that highlights the benefits of this great program.


Sweetened Beverage Tax Community Advisory Board Meeting – October 13

The first meeting of the Sweetened Beverage Tax Community Advisory Board is Friday, October 13.


WHAT: Sweetened Beverage Tax Community Advisory Board Meeting

WHEN: Friday, October 13, 11:00 AM – 1:30 PM

WHERE: Seattle Municipal Tower, 40th Floor, Room 4096, 700 Fifth Ave, Seattle, WA 98104

View the meeting agenda here.

The Sweetened Beverage Tax Community Advisory Board was established by the City Council (Ordinance 125324) to advise and make recommendations to the Mayor and City Council on programs and activities supported by the tax revenue.

Getting More Healthy Food to Low-Income Residents

As farmers market season opens across the region, low-income residents of Seattle and King County are about to have many more places to access fresh, healthy food, thanks to OSE’s Fresh Bucks program. Fresh Bucks is OSE’s cornerstone food access program, which makes healthy food more affordable to low-income households. Fresh Bucks doubles the purchasing power for low-income households who use their federal food stamp benefits (SNAP) to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables at Farmers Markets. Fresh Bucks are available at every farmers market in Seattle (16 markets) as well as 5 direct-market farm stands. This year, we are launching Fresh Bucks at nine additional farmers markets in King County.

In 2015, the program brought close to $290,000 to local farmers, which translates to $518,432 in economic stimulus for our community. Fresh Bucks continues to bring new shoppers to farmers markets, and many of those shoppers become repeat shoppers.

When asked about what the Fresh Bucks program means to them, program participants shared that “It makes my food stamps truly cover the healthy food I need,” and  “I definitely eat more fruit and vegetables because Fresh Bucks makes it all affordable. Also the idea of supporting the local economy is a win-win for us all.”

For people who can’t make it to the farmers market, we are partnering with Seattle Tilth and Pike Place Market to expand programs offering low-cost fruit and vegetable deliveries (think a CSA) to childcares, preschool sites, community centers, and other convenient pick-up locations. Like Fresh Bucks, these are provided at a subsidized cost to SNAP recipients.

Partnerships have been integral to the growth and success of Fresh Bucks – locally, regionally, statewide, and nationally. Farmers market organizations in Seattle have been key implementation partners from day one. Working with regional and statewide partners, we took a small Seattle pilot and turned it into a statewide effort. With funding from the US Department of Agriculture, the WA Department of Health (with many partners around the state) is supporting Fresh Bucks in 80 farmers markets around Washington. This grant is also allowing OSE to expand Fresh Bucks to farmers markets in South King County – where the need for affordable access to healthy food is great.

In addition federal funding, Fresh Bucks is supported by regional partners. In addition to City of Seattle, King Conservation District, Public Health – Seattle & King County, Seattle Childrens’ and Pike Place Market Foundation provide the financial support needed to support the growth of Fresh Bucks.

For more information and participating market locations, visit the Fresh Bucks webpage.


Lower Your Carbon “Foodprint”

By now, you’ve probably heard of a carbon footprint, where you measure the carbon associated with your daily activities, like commuting, heating/cooling your home and taking trips. But one of the biggest choices you make to impact the climate may be related to food, or your carbon “foodprint.”

Food production is very energy intensive, as it includes direct emissions from food growing, as well as energy associated with transport, food production, processing, packaging and distribution. Food waste is another big contributor (food in a landfill doesn’t break down as it does when composted, instead releasing methane, a potent greenhouse gas). This is particularly impactful when otherwise edible food is thrown out – all the energy it took to grow the food is lost, too.

But there are plenty of ways to lower the impact of what you eat. First, you can take a quick survey to find out your carbon foodprint, which will give you a better idea of how various food choices impact the environment. You might be surprised by a few things, especially if you love dairy…

No one wants to waste food, but it happens. In fact, Americans waste about 25 percent of all food and drinks we buy, adding up to more than $1,600 each year. Ouch! Luckily, there are ways to prevent a lot of waste and some good tools out there to help us along the way. Check out the Food, Too Good to Waste toolkit to learn tips on planning meals, shopping, preparing and storing food (hint, basil will last longer outside the fridge!).

Some things you just have to toss, so don’t forget to throw your scraps in the compost or yard collection bin (or feed to chickens if you have them, they’re some of the best recyclers around).