Waco Downtown Farmers Market Looking to Accept SNAP Benefits

March 26, 2012

In a 2011 news report, of the 233,000 residents of McLennan County’s, 66,000 qualified for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or “food stamps.” Of those who were eligible, less than half actually participated. That’s more than 33,000 people who shouldn’t suffer from food insecurity, but do. Why?

Is it the stigma? Or, the fact that parts of Waco and McLennan County suffer from the phenomenon of food desserts*? In McLennan County, simply having SNAP isn’t the battle; having a place to use it is — especially if that place provides locally grown produce and healthful food for growing families.

Located in an area where 74.4% of residents have low access to food,  The Waco (Texas) Downtown Farmers Market (WDFM) is pushing for SNAP acceptance at its weekly market held each Saturday. The market, which started in November 2011, provides locally grown produce, farm-raised meat, fresh eggs, and organic cuisine to market-goers numbering from 500 to 2,000 each weekend.

The WDFM has partnered with the Texas Hunger Initiative, the Food Planning Task Force of McLennan County, Urban Gardening Coalition, the McLennan County Hunger Coalition, and the World Hunger Relief Farm to make the program a reality.

Bethel Erickson-Bruce, Market Manager for the WDFM comments, “By accepting SNAP at Market, we hope to draw in greater participation from neighborhoods all throughout Waco – expanding the capability of all people to purchase fresh, locally grown food.” She adds, “We are also excited about the possibility of having people use their government benefits to vote with their food dollars and support local agriculture and the local economy.”

The ever-present problem of convenience store cuisine primarily obtained in Food Deserts may be uprooted if SNAP is an option where vegetables, fruits and nutritious food options are easily accessible. The New York Times reported that the University of Washington found in 2007 that “higher-calorie, energy-dense foods are the better bargain for cash-strapped shoppers.” High-calorie/energy-dense food cost on average $1.76 per 1,000 calories, compared with $18.16 per 1,000 calories for low-calorie/nutritious options. The survey also showed that healthful options had a tendency to increase in price, while high-caloric snack foods tended to become more of a bargain, actually dropping in price by 1.8 percent over the length of the study.

Whether federal benefits will be used at the Market remains to be seen, but organizers hope that if the service is out there, local residents will respond. The main goal is to provide and offer locally grown produce to residents who normally are not able to purchase fresh vegetables due to lack of availability or price.

The group is in the initial stages of determining which system they would like to set up for accepting food stamps. Many markets across the country use a wooden token system where shoppers exchange SNAP benefits or debit-card dollars for a shopper-friendly token used like cash at the market. Unused tokens can be credited back to the shoppers accounts or easily used next time they attend the market.  The team’s task force meets regularly to work on and discuss funding possibilities for initial costs, client outreach, vendor outreach, and training volunteers to operate the new system. Main points to consider are ease of use, and non-discriminatory methods for using the benefits. The group hopes that a dual SNAP/Debit machine will be an option to eliminate any hesitance that may accompany the use of SNAP at the market.

The seeds are planted, and now it’s only a matter of time before accepting SNAP at the WDFM becomes a reality. If you would like to know more about how you can help implement the system and help residents obtain healthful food options while supporting local agriculture, visit the market this Saturday and chat with Bethel and the UGC volunteers at the Urban Gardening Coalition booth about ways you can help spread the word. You may also visit them online at www.wacodowntownfarmersmarket.com or  http://hotugc.org.

When and Where: every Saturday from 9am-1pm at 400 South University Parks Drive.  Look for the old Fire Tower.

Helpful hints: Bring cash, for now, and a recyclable bag if you have one (or two) to hold your purchases.


*What is a Food Desert? According to the USDA:

While there are many ways to define a food desert, the Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI) Working Group considers a food desert as a low-income census tract where a substantial number or share of residents has low access to a supermarket or large grocery store. To qualify as low-income, census tracts must meet the Treasury Department’s New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) program eligibility criteria. Furthermore, to qualify as a food desert tract, at least 33 percent of the tract’s population or a minimum of 500 people in the tract must have low access to a supermarket or large grocery store. http://www.ers.usda.gov/data/fooddesert/documentation.html

To find where the Food Deserts are in our area, state or nation, visit http://www.ers.usda.gov/data/fooddesert/fooddesert.html

~Chelle Samaniego

S.O.S. Food Drive set for April 27, 2012

March 22, 2012

The Spring Onto Summer (S.O.S) Food Drive is upon us!

With summer quickly approaching, local pantries prepare for increased numbers as children who normally eat breakfast and lunch at school are home for the summer. Without the benefit of these guaranteed meals, thousands of area children suffer from food insecurity. And with that, local pantries struggle to supply food for the increased demand.

Last year, the McLennan County Hunger Coalition, local food pantries, Grande Communications and KXXV partnered to bring food to these pantries to assist during the summer months. The Spring Onto Summer (S.O.S.) Food Drive was born, and now — in its second year — added community partners promise continued success.

S.O.S 2012 will take place on April 27th from 8am to 6pm. Remember: Hunger doesn’t take a summer vacation! Bring your non-perishable food items and/or monetary donations and help change the life of a hungry child in McLennan County.

To learn more, visit http://www.mclennanhunger.org.

Volunteer Opportunities:

Volunteers are needed from 8am to 6pm on April 27th to pick up food at the drop-off locationsPlease call the McLennan County Hunger Coalition at 254-224-8486 or send an email to mclennanhunger@gmail.com

Locations Include:

Grande Communications

7200 Imperial Drive, Waco, TX

Channel 25 KXXV

1909 South New Road, Waco, TX

Walmart Stores

600 Hewitt Drive, Waco, TX

1521 Interstate 35 N, Waco, TX

4320 Franklin Avenue, Waco, TX

Sam’s Club

2301 East Waco Drive, Waco, TX


100 Peplow St,  Robinson TX 76706

*Posted by Chelle Samaniego (Waco, Texas)

FPTF in the News!

March 16, 2012

The Food Planning Task Force of McLennan County was mentioned in a Letter to the Editor in the Feb. 21. 2012 edition of the Waco Tribune Herald. To read Amber Jekot’s letter, please visit:


Additionally, FPTF co-organizer Matt Hess was featured in the February 19, 2012 edition! Thank you to Amber and Matt for getting the word out about hunger and poverty in our community!

To read Matt’s letter, visit http://worldhungerrelief.org/?p=3303.

FRAC Announcement – Afterschool Meals Matter Conference Call – Recruiting and Working with Individual Afterschool Programs

March 12, 2012

Sign up now for the next FRAC Conference Call on March 21, 2012! Visit www.frac.org for all the details!

McLennan County Hunger Coalition donates $1,000 to STARS High School.

March 12, 2012

Posted by Brett Case on March 7, 2012n at McLennanhunger.org

On February 29, representatives from the McLennan County Hunger Coalition (MCHC) met with STARS’s High school principal and students to donate $500 of a $1000 gift to be used for the purchase of healthy snacks and meals for students to eat while in school.   STARS (Students That Are Reaching Success)   is an alternative education school that assists students ages 16-21 in receiving their High school Diplomas.

To read more, visit http://www.mclennanhunger.org/?p=448

Mark your calendars now for World Hunger Relief, Inc.’s Spring Farm Day!

March 8, 2012

Portraits of Hunger: Stories of Americans on Food Stamps

March 8, 2012
By William Brangham – February 17, 2012
The number jumps out at you: More than 46 million Americans — one in seven of us — gets help from the federal government to feed ourselves and our families. The “food stamp” program — they’re not stamps anymore, by the way — has been hailed as a key element of the safety net. But a number of the Republican presidential candidates say the president’s support for food stamps and other social programs only promotes dependency.“We actually think work is good,” Newt Gingrich has said. “We actually think saying to somebody, ‘I’ll help you if you’re willing to help yourself,’ is good.”

If you’re surprised at how many Americans receive help in buying food, you may be even more surprised who they are. As it turns out, millions of Americans with jobs also need the help.

To watch the special segment on Need to Know on PBS, visit http://www.pbs.org/wnet/need-to-know/video/video-portraits-of-hunger-stories-of-americans-on-food-stamps/13154/