Covid-19 Updates at the Alemany Farmers Market

We received a lot of inquiries about how Alemany was operating during the shelter in place order (SIP) and so we wanted to share details. We visited the market on May 2, 2020.

While the traditional farmers market experience of taste testing, hand selection of produce, and sitting to eat a meal are not currently available at the market – the market continues to offer a wide variety of high quality, low cost produce. Those who come to the market, do so with patience, awareness, and an understanding of this current context. 

The center parking lot was open for shoppers to allow for social distancing. The back parking lot was still open as well as parking along the south side. 

Shoppers were lined up, six feet apart, at the farmers stall. Many stalls had markers on the ground directing shoppers of where to stand and line up. When they reached the front of the line, shoppers would point at which produce or products they would like to purchase. Some farmers were pre-bagging their produce. The farmer would then fill the order and tell the shopper how much was owed.  

How did shoppers pay? Some farmers were accepting credit card payment but many were still accepting cash. Those paying with cash are advised to come with change or small bills to lessen the amount of exchanges.

Those who can were advised to go early or later in the day as the hours of 9am to noon are the busiest. The market opens at 6am and closes at dusk. 

A rapidly growing number of EBT users were accessing the Market Match program, where they receive an extra $10 to spend on produce. Eat SF’s Vouchers 4 Veggies were also being accepted. Participations go to the building onsite to get tokens to spend.  

While it is not the typical farmers market experience, shopping out in the open air, being able to purchase the amazing, low-cost produce from local farms was valuable experience.

Request to Congress for Covid-19 Support

When schools closed in March, school nutrition programs continued to serve meals. The USDA, who oversees Child Nutrition Programs, have approved waivers to allow for some flexibility but the waivers must be further be approved by the state the school resides in. Congress must approve support to these vital program to not only ensure this safety net will continue, but to also protect already battered school district budgets.

  1. Provide additional funding for school nutrition programs. While schools have been closed, the Governor’s office mandated school districts to continue to provide meals to children. Since closures, schools are providing a vital safety nutritional safety net to the community in the form of emergency meals. In addition to the lost revenue the regular school meals, they are incurring costs above and beyond their regular operational costs to serve emergency meals. Many are paying transportation costs due to having to deliver meals to families who can not travel, this includes bus driver wages, fuel, and vehicle expenses. They are paying their employees hazard pay, some paying time and half or a flat per hour dollar amount. They have had to purchase additional equipment such as transportation supplies (thermal bins, coolers, packaging equipment) as well as supplies such as plastic bags and containers required to keep food safe from contamination. Even though the USDA has provided a waiver for menu flexibility, Child Nutrition programs continue to strive to serve a balanced, healthy meal made of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy proteins. Strains on supply chains have made some food items more expense. Covered more in #3, schools are having to purchase PPE, which is costly and was not planned for in the budget. Further, schools who are not serving emergency meals are still required to pay Child Nutrition employees, just like they are with teachers. Funding for Child Nutrition programs comes directly from the number of meals served. California has provided emergency funding to schools but it is not enough to cover the loss of revenue from school meals as well as the additional costs. California does have a Disaster Relief option, however, it is normally only used for one or two days when a school is forced to close for such episodic disasters such as environmental, bad weather, or fire.
  2. Extend the Pandemic EBT program through the summer. Families accessing the P-EBT program will no longer have the pressure of traveling to an emergency meal distribution site, use the funds to pay for dinner meals (most schools are providing breakfast and lunch), or weekend meals. With unemployment approaching 25%-30% in some regions, the need will continue through the summer.
  3. Provide Personal Protective Equipment to Child Nutrition workers and volunteers who are serving emergency meals. The struggle to source and purchase PPE has been well documented. Some Nutrition Services employees are exposed to hundreds of children and families every serve day, while many are in the high risk age group. Schools need support in sourcing and paying for PPE.

Making School Lunch a Better Experience

I had the pleasure of discussing the role and importance of school meals with Jennifer Fink of School Leaders Now. We discussed why school administrators should value school lunch and its important impact on student’s social emotional well being. Get suggestions on how to approach changing school meal programs. The cafeteria needs to be a better experience for children. See full article here.

White House rule change will take food away from California kids at home and at school

Having worked in school food service for more than a decade, I know first-hand the impact of school meals on kids’ health, happiness and ability to learn.

That’s why I’m profoundly concerned about a new proposal by the Trump administration that will put school meals in jeopardy for more than 500,000 kids across the nation and make it much more difficult for schools in my district to reach all the kids who rely on free meals at school.

That’s exactly what will happen if the White House rolls back a policy called Broad Based Categorical Eligibility (BBCE), which helps low-income families enroll in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, known as CalFresh in California) if they’re already eligible for other anti-poverty programs.

Specifically, restricting this policy will result in 3.6 million low-income people losing access to SNAP in the U.S. More than 346,000 Californians who currently receive CalFresh would lose benefits if this new rule goes into effect, and nearly two-thirds of them live in families with children. That’s a huge problem.

SNAP is one of our nation’s most powerful tools for ending childhood hunger, lifting millions of children out of poverty each year. And its effect on educational and health outcomes is compelling, too. Low-income kids who receive SNAP benefits are more likely to graduate from high school and to have better physical health.

If this rule goes into effect, students who qualify for SNAP through BBCE may no longer qualify for free school meals. And in school districts that currently offer universal free meals through the federal Community Eligibility Provision, changes to SNAP could mean schools no longer meet the eligibility threshold or that it’s no longer a financially viable option.

I can attest to the benefits of this incredibly effective, efficient program – including the elimination of school meal debt, reduced stigma and more kids eating school meals. Losing this option would be a huge step backwards.

Ultimately, if this rule takes effect kids will face a devastating double whammy: lost meals both at home and at school. Simply put, more kids will go hungry.

We already know that hunger affects a child’s ability to learn. In fact, nutrition is one of the most important school supplies we have. When kids are hungry, they can’t concentrate and are more likely to be sick. Behavioral and discipline problems increase, as do visits to the school nurse, to the principal and to detention. Test scores drop and school attendance levels fall.

But when kids have consistent, reliable access to food at home and at school it helps them learn more, stay healthier and grow up stronger.

It’s unfathomable to think that 1 out of every 5 kids in California lives with hunger. It’s worse to think that this proposal by the Administration will make this hunger much worse. Luckily, we have a chance to stop it. But the clock is ticking. Join No Kid Hungry and its partners in telling the USDA not to take food away from kids at home and at school.

Healthy-By-Default – Kids’ Meal Beverages SB 1192

Parents eating out with their young children no longer have to worry about cancelling the sugary beverage that all too often shows up with kid’s meals. The California Healthy-by-Default Kid’s Meal bill makes a healthy beverage – water or milk – the default beverage for children’s combo meals instead of sugary drinks, helping parents provide healthy drink options to their children while eating outside the home.

Too many children continue to be overweight and obese (in 2015, 16% of children ages six to 11 years of age were obese), and yet many families lack adequate time and resources to obtain and prepare healthy food, making dinning out an appealing and often necessary option.

Find out more information and background from the Public Health Advocates.

New Release – 2018 San Francisco Food Security Assessment

Get the Full Report Here.

From the San Francisco Food Security Task Force:

For the 2018 report, the SF Food Security Task Force examined data from federal, state and locally funded food programs in order to develop recommendations for policies and systems to support gaps in San Francisco’s food needs. This data integration exposes health disparities to be addressed in all programs serving communities in need.

The 2018 Assessment serves as a five-year update to the landmark 2013 Food Security Assessment Report. Important gains since 2013 include continued budget investments and critical new policies; expanded funding for food programs for seniors and people with disabilities; vouchers and incentives offering additional financial resources to purchase fruits and vegetables; partnerships delivering free groceries to the homes of seniors and adults with disabilities; the launch of a new collaborative to support the health and nutrition of people living in SROs; and sponsors of nutrition programs for children and youth expanding the number of “out of school” meal and pantry programs.

While important progress has been made in the food security network, the 2018 Assessment cites concerning declines for our most vulnerable residents. One in four remain at risk of food insecurity. As the population of San Francisco has grown, the number of San Franciscans at high risk for food insecurity due to low income has also increased. We explore some of the economic conditions that contributed to food insecurity intensifying.

This announcement is the first of many efforts to raise awareness about the state of hunger in San Francisco and the 2018 Food Security Assessment. Next year the Food Security Task Force will continue to amplify its progress toward achieving our collective goal: a food secure San Francisco.

The Food Security Task Force believes that a healthy food system in San Francisco is possible for everyone, and asks you to join us to make this a reality.

The Case for a National Institute of Nutrition

Those of us who work in child nutrition and food systems already know the toll and negative impact diet-related chronic conditions have on communities – particularly in children. Federal child nutrition programs are overseen and managed by the USDA, whose support for farmers and industry often out weighs the health needs of the children the programs serve. Myself and many of my colleagues often express frustration at the lack of clarity and consistent nutrition science on which to build out critical programs which serve food insecure communities.

“The aggregate sum of research funding set aside for nutritional research across all federal agencies is estimated to be only $1.5 billion annually. To put this into perspective, national spending on candy is about $40 billion per year.”

There is a movement growing around the case to create a National Institute of Nutrition.  Check out a preliminary draft of the NIN bill here as well as additional information.

Statewide California Child Hunger Caucus

Thank you Jeff Bridges for your support to end childhood hunger! We enjoyed presenting with you, California Director Kathy Saile from No Kid Hungry, Pastor Karen Abrego (representing Senator Richard Pan’s office) and moderator Edie Lambert of KCRA in promoting the formation of a Child Hunger Caucus within the California State Legislature. It’s collaborations such as this which will truly move the needle to ensure all children in California have access to nutritious food. Stay tuned or contact us for more information.

Market Match at San Francisco’s Alemany Farmers’ Market

A Better Course is the proud recipient of a Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive program grant, known as Market Match in California, for 2018-19. The program operates at the Alemany Farmers’ Market, which opened in 1943 and was California’s first farmers’ market. The 2018/19 Market Match incentive program is expected to be offered starting February 2019.