On Tuesday, March 8th, USDA Under Secretary Kevin Concannon, the top official in charge of SNAP – formerly known as the Food Stamp Program – will be visiting the South Berkeley Farmers’ Market to celebrate National Nutrition Month and discuss the USDA’s goals of expanding SNAP (food stamp) accessibility at farmers’ markets across the country.
Under Secretary Concannon will speak to the press, then tour the market, which is operated by the Ecology Center, a 46-year-old nonprofit with a mission to create and promote a healthy, sustainable, and just food system.
Concannon will be joined by Ecology Center Executive Director Martin Bourque, who will discuss the many co-benefits of attracting SNAP shoppers to farmers’ markets. “SNAP benefits spent at farmers’ markets not only improve the diet and health of low-income shoppers,” says Bourque, “they also support America’s small farms, many of which utilize sustainable agricultural practices and drive innovation.”
In 2002, the Ecology Center was the first California farmers’ market operator to make their markets accessible to people who depend on SNAP electronic benefits transfer cards, the modern form of food stamps. The Ecology Center continues to build upon its pioneering work by using USDA grant funds to reach out to California farmers’ markets that do not yet offer SNAP access, and to provide technical assistance so they can add SNAP access.
Nominated by President Obama and Secretary Vilsack, Kevin Concannon has served as the USDA’s Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services since 2009. The department’s Food and Nutrition Service serves 1 in 4 Americans, with such programs as SNAP; WIC; the National School Lunch, School Breakfast, and Summer Food Service Programs; and many other food assistance and nutrition programs.
Concannon’s visit kicks off National Nutrition Month, a national campaign that focuses attention on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating habits.