Conservation Grant Applications Now Being Accepted!

The King Conservation District (KCD) – Seattle Community Partnership Grant Program is requesting applications from non-profit organizations and community groups committed to making natural resource improvements and advancing environmental equity. Organizations and groups are encouraged to apply for projects that meet at least one goal of the City of Seattle’s Equity & Environment Agenda and improve Seattle’s natural resources through direct improvements, education and outreach, pilot or demonstration projects, or capacity building.

Letters of Intent (LOI) are due by 5pm on Monday, May 7, 2018. For more information and for application guidelines please visit the KCD website. For any questions, contact Jessica Saavedra at 425.282.1906.

Fresh Bucks use at farmers markets and neighborhood grocers doubled over same time as last year

More low-income residents are eating healthier as a result of Seattle’s food access program

Residents with low incomes are purchasing more fruits and vegetables at Seattle and King County farmers markets and neighborhood grocery stores —helping them eat healthier and supporting local farmers. Recent data shows that Fresh Bucks sales at farmers markets and grocery stores in the first two months of 2018 increased 163% over last year.

The Fresh Bucks program provides a dollar-for-dollar match of SNAP benefits (food stamp) spent at participating Seattle and King County farmers markets and participating neighborhood grocers. Fresh Bucks has continued to grow in the number of shoppers each year, with more than 68,000 Fresh Bucks transactions since launch in 2012. The Seattle Office of Sustainability & Environment (OSE) administers the Fresh Bucks program in Seattle.

“Fresh Bucks has really been a tremendous asset to our community,” said Sam Kielty, manager of the West Seattle Farmers Market. The farmers love it because it’s bringing new shoppers to our markets and the shoppers love it because it’s such a good value and makes a significant improvement in what they and their families eat.”

A recent survey of Fresh Bucks participants revealed that 61% get at least half of their produce through the Fresh Bucks program and participants generally consumed more fruits and vegetables than average consumers.

Cost is a primary barrier for people with low incomes to eating fresh fruits and vegetables. OSE recently lifted the match limit for Fresh Bucks transactions to increase affordability even further. Previously, shoppers were limited to a $10 per-transaction maximum which allowed shoppers to receive $10 in Fresh Bucks for a total of $20 available to spend per visit. Now, there is no limit as to how much Fresh Bucks a shopper can access to match SNAP benefits when purchasing produce at a farmers market or participating grocer. Fresh Bucks is supported by funding from Seattle’s Sweetened Beverage Tax.

Last year, OSE launched a pilot to make Fresh Bucks available at six Somali- and Latino-owned neighborhood groceries. This expansion has been especially helpful in the winter months, when fewer farmers markets are open. These stores are also open daily, creating convenient options for people to use Fresh Bucks.

With funding from Seattle’s Sweetened Beverage Tax, Seattle will continue to expand Fresh Bucks through greater shopper participation, partnerships with larger grocers, and increased use of Fresh Bucks Rx—where medical providers provide patients with “prescriptions” for fruits and vegetables to be redeemed at participating grocers and farmers markets.

“For those of us who have enough to eat, it’s easy to take for granted our ability to include fresh local produce in our meals,” said Jessica Finn Coven, Director of the Seattle Office of Sustainability & Environment. “Fresh Bucks makes it possible for people who are burdened by food insecurity to afford healthy food. Fresh Bucks is an excellent tool to improve health outcomes for Seattle residents while supporting our local economy.”

For more information on Fresh Bucks, visit here. More information on the Sweetened Beverage tax is here.

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.

 

What Is the Sweetened Beverage Tax?

On January 1st, the Sweetened Beverage Tax went into effect in Seattle. The tax rate is 1.75 cents per ounce and is charged directly to distributors. Consumers may or may not see a price increase. Distributors are free to pass or not pass the added cost of the beverage tax on to retailers. Likewise, retailers may or may not pass the cost along to consumers.

Services funded by the proceeds of the beverage tax are intended to expand access to healthy and affordable food, close the food security gap, promote healthy nutrition choices, reduce disparities in social, developmental, and education readiness and learning for children, assist high school graduates to enter college, and expand services for the birth-to-five population and their families.

As part of the legislation, the Sweetened Beverage Tax Community Advisory Board was established by the City Council to advise and make recommendations to the Mayor and City Council on programs and activities supported by the tax revenue.

More information on how the tax is collected is here.

Seattle’s Urban Forest Needs You!

Do you love trees? Do you want to help Seattle protect its trees and continue to be the Emerald City? Then you should join the Urban Forestry Commission! Volunteering for this Commission is an opportunity to support city government in developing policies that support urban trees.

The Urban Forestry Commission (UFC) was established to advise the Mayor and City Council on policies and regulations to support the protection, management, and conservation of trees and vegetation in Seattle. The UFC is currently recruiting for the following positions: Arborist, Landscape Architect, Public Health, Environmental Equity, and Neighborhood/Community representative.  Applications are due February 28, 2018. For more information visit the UFC website.