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The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as SNAP, provides low-income Americans with assistance to buy food. The city of Boston is providing even more help, and creating extra incentives to encourage healthy eating. Jessica Ilyse Smith went to a farmers’ market to find out about the Boston Bounty Bucks program.


SMITH: On a recent afternoon the farmers’ market in Boston’s Copley Square is bustling with energy.

WOMAN: Do you want me to lift that bag up for ya?

SMITH: Today a group from the Boston Living Center is on a field trip.

HANSEN: We decided to come to the market today to learn how to use the food stamps and also use the Boston Bounty Bucks.

SMITH: Amber Hansen is the Boston Living Center’s registered dietician. She organized this outing to help the Center’s HIV positive members shop for produce using Bounty Bucks—the city’s program that doubles Federal SNAP benefits. It’s a dollar-for-dollar match up to ten dollars.

HANSEN: Do you want some cauliflower, or are you good?

CARLOS: how much is it?

HANSEN: Four dollars a pound. You could roast it with olive oil, garlic and salt. If you just chop it up. And then put some oil on it. Do you have olive oil or canola oil even? Both are healthy, good fats.

SMITH: Hansen gives Carlos tips on how to choose and cook his produce.

For Carlos and others living with compromised immune systems, fresh fruits and vegetables are especially important for their nutrition. Janet’s another member of the Boston Living Center.

JANET: When you’re living with HIV even though now, with the medicines a lot of people are living longer, but it’s very important to take care of yourself. Good nutrition is kind of a way to fight back.

SMITH: But fresh produce can be prohibitively expensive. Boston Bounty Bucks is trying to make healthy food more attainable for low-income residents. Edith Murnane is Boston’s director of food initiatives. When I visited her at her office in City Hall she told me this program is all about accessibility.

MURNANE: Farmer’s markets are a really interesting way to get fruits and vegetables into the inner city. I’m not only talking about physical accessibility, but it’s really economic accessibility and the Boston Bounty Bucks really gets at that.

SMITH: The program also helps out farmers.

MURNANE: It makes it economically viable for a farmer to come to the inner city. It makes it economically feasible.

SMITH: There are now 21 farmers’ markets that participate in the program—Murnane says this shows the city’s strong commitment to public health.


SMITH: The program is helping the city’s farmers’ markets accommodate SNAP users by providing grants for new technology. Lee Piper is the assistant farm manager at the Copley Square Market.

PIPER: We have a wireless terminal here at the market, so we can take your EBT card and swipe it through.

SMITH: The terminal logs on to each person’s SNAP benefits and matches up to ten dollars in Bounty Bucks. Piper shows Living Center members how to use their Electronic Benefit Transfer, or EBT cards.

PIPER: So I swipe this.


PIPER: Now, you need to enter your 4-digit pin number.


SMITH: Piper hands Carlos his receipt and counts out 20 Bounty Bucks.

PIPER: 16,17,18,19, and 20. So that’s what you can spend.

CARLOS: Alright.

SMITH: Armed with his 20 Bounty Bucks, Carlos decides what to buy.

CARLOS: What I would like to buy…se llama? Collard? Collard greens. I love romaine lechuga, lettuce.

SMITH: Carrying bags of lettuce, collard greens, onions and mushrooms, Carlos gets in line to pay.

WOMAN: Do you want me to lift that bag up for you?


CASHIER: 13.75 is your total.

CARLOS: Gracias, thank you!

HANSEN: So the Bounty Bucks are a big help!

CARLOS: Oh my god!

HANSEN: Yeah! Right?

CARLOS: Yes. This is like for me seven dollars. 50% discount, 20 dollars for ten dollars! And I’m more positive that I come back more often.

SMITH: That’s exactly why Boston sponsors Bounty Bucks—to have customers return to the market throughout the growing season and eat more fruits and vegetables. The program has become a model for other cities. Farmers’ markets around the country are starting to add EBT stations and a few other programs offer financial incentives. The goals are the same: to improve health and nutrition in traditionally underserved populations.



SNAP pH.mp3 3.8 MB

California’s Department of Public Health says less half of African Americans in the state eat enough fruits and vegetables—often because fresh produce simply isn’t available where they live. A farmer’s market in LA’s predominantly black Crenshaw neighborhood is working to make fresh foods more available, but they are finding that if you build it, they won’t necessarily come. Planet Harmony’s King Anyi Howell reports and Host Regina Campbell-Malone follows up Harambee Farmer, Larry Williamson, about his vision for a healthier inner city.


ANYI: Out here at the Harambee Farmer’s Market, its crazy empty! I’ve been here since maybe 12—it’s almost 2:30—there’s nobody here, I maybe saw one person go get some fruits.


ANYI: It’s an average Saturday morning at the Harambee Farmer’s market. Baskets of bright red tomatoes and strawberries settled next to fresh picked greens and okra all compete for attention in the area saturated with fast food chains and lesser known grease depots.


ANYI: The market is at the busy intersection of Crenshaw and Slauson, at a former Fire Station tucked between a bank and an auto paint shop. Michelle Guillaume lives in South Central. She says the farmer’s market is in the perfect location to attract customers.

GUILLAUME: It’s where commercial business meets hustlers and street vendors and with Crenshaw Boulevard being what it is, just everybody—it’s a main vein in our city, so you get some of everybody and we all mingle on these corners.

ANYI: Guillaume buys fresh strawberries to add to lemonade, green onions and lettuce for her taco truck that operates right outside the market. Nearby a customer is buying oranges.

MAN: We have oranges three for a dollar.

ANYI: But apart from them there are very few shoppers. The African Firefighters in Benevolence Association or AFIBA that organizes the Market is really trying to attract more customers and expand the market, which currently only has seven stands. They’ve hung a large banner advertising the market’s hours for the thousands of cars that drive by daily; they telephone local residents, and they also try to lure customers with a live band.


ANYI: But even that doesn’t seem to be working. The market remains largely empty. Shoppers pass the market by and head for the neon-emblazed, Ralph’s Supermarket. I walked across the street to ask a Ralph’s customer, Ladine, why she didn’t come to the Market.

LADINE: Mostly everybody buys their produce here because they want to go to one place to get everything you need.

ANYI: The big supermarket may not have quality produce but it is convenient and familiar. While the farmer’s market remains hidden in plain sight.

LADINE: I didn’t know about the market and now that I know I will go.

ANYI: Vegetables at Harambee go straight from the ground to the community. The food here provides nutrition that is missing from the fast food chains and bodegas that line these streets.

ROBINSON: Today we have grapes.

ANYI: That’s vendor, Etea Robinson.

ROBINSON: We have corn grown in the Williamson farm up in Merced.

ANYI: The lack of customers puts Farmers like Larry Williamson, who labor to make fresh produce available to the black community, in a tough spot.

WILLIAMSON: I could probably run this, struggle along for another five years.

ANYI: Williamson is a native of Los Angeles, but farms about a four-hour drive away in Merced, California. He told me that he is in a unique position to help provide healthy options to the African-American community.

WILLIAMSON: I don’t think that I’m gonna never garner the Italian Market, the Hispanic market or the Asian Market. I’ve made it very clear that I’m in a better position to help the black market because we’ve always had the argument from the ‘80s to the ‘90s that the food that comes to our stores is old; it’s tainted and all these things.

ANYI: His farm grows 150 to 200 thousand dollars worth of produce annually but he has to give away most of his unsold crops or feed them to the chickens and goats that graze on the farm, so he barely turns a profit. However, Williamson keeps coming back to the farmer’s market. He’s committed to providing competitively priced healthy alternatives to the cheap junk food that’s so common here. For Larry it’s about more than just green, he has a vision.

WILLIAMSON: I have enough land and seeds that I can make probably an extra 20 to 30 thousand dollars and put it in my pocket and be totally satisfied but that’s not my goal, that not my objective. My goal is to in the next five years I want to own 100 acres and lease 1,000 acres. With that amount of land, I can feed every black family in California!

ANYI: And maybe Williamson’s enthusiasm is starting to catch on. Traffic at Harambee is slowly picking up. The people who organize the market have added more regular activities like live music and self defense workshops. They also accept WIC vouchers. With the help of farmers like Larry Williamson and the AFIBA center that supports the market, Harambee may slowly start to shift inner city eating trends. Drop by if you are ever in LA on a Saturday afternoon.


ANYI: Let me get some of these grapes! For Planet Harmony and Living on Earth, I’m King Anyi Howell

Good Eats 2.mp3 8 MB