Friday, November 9, 2012

Food Stamp Challenge -- Day Two

Since I'm a vegan, I knew when I signed on to take the 7-Day Food Stamp Challenge that a very large portion of my $34.30 budget would be spent on produce. And where better to buy produce than the farmers' market? Or so I thought. But I discovered that there are pitfalls for CalFresh benefit recipients who want to shop at the farmers' market.

The first problem is that, until very recently, most Sacramento area farmers' markets did not accept EBT cards. A special device is needed to process EBT card payments, and farmers' markets tend to be a cash-only business. Fortunately, Alchemist Community Development Corporation stepped in to help solve that problem. They've got a table set up at five of the local year-round farmers' markets where people can use their EBT cards to buy vouchers to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables from participating farmers. Not all vendors at the farmers' market will accept the EBT vouchers, however. So when I went shopping at the farmers' market last Sunday, the first thing I did was to stop at the Alchemist CDC table and pick up the list of participating vendors, and I made my purchases only from vendors who would have sold to me if I had EBT vouchers instead of cash.

Another problem was that the produce at the farmers' market seemed to me to be more expensive than the produce at a grocery store. Apparently, there are a couple of reasons why that might be the case. First, the farmers' market under the freeway at the corner of 8th and W is patronized by a relatively high-income clientele, with shoppers coming from nearby Land Park, Curtis Park, Midtown, and other neighborhoods that can afford to pay higher prices, so the vendors may be charging what they think the market will bear. The prices would probably be lower at a farmers' market in a less wealthy neighborhood. Another problem may have been that some of the produce I was buying was at the end of its growing season, which would make it more scarce and therefore more expensive. In the past, Alchemist CDC has helped to encourage EBT recipients to buy produce at the farmers' market by giving CalFresh customers who spent at least $10 at the farmers’ market an extra $5 to buy fresh fruits, vegetables, and nuts. This Market Match program was so successful that all the funds Alchemist CDC had for this purpose were expended.

Fortunately, between the farmers' market and Sprouts, I did manage to buy all of the produce on my shopping list, much of which was featured in the meals I ate today. For breakfast, I had a bowl of rice with vanilla rice milk and cinnamon sugar. I sliced up half an apple and chopped part of it into the rice, and ate the rest of the slices plain. I also had a cup of tea with lemon.

The minestrone soup I made for lunch was full of fresh vegetables -- tomato, celery, onion, garlic, zucchini, and cabbage. I used the vegetable broth I made yesterday from peels and ends of vegetables that would otherwise have been discarded. Usually, I put small white beans and salad macaroni in my minestrone soup, but for this batch, I used up the rest of the Dollar Tree pinto beans and I added small pasta shells, since Dollar Tree didn't have salad macaroni. It was delicious, and I'll eat the leftovers for at least a couple of meals during the remaining days of the challenge. I also had half of a Valencia orange and a glass of iced tea with lemon to drink.

Dinner was an experiment. I had quite a bit of cabbage left that I didn't need for the minestrone soup, so I decided to try to make potato pancakes using one of my potatoes, some chopped cabbage, a little minced garlic, salt, pepper, and oil. They wouldn't stick together, though, so I ended up with kind of a potato hash. It was actually really good. It was accompanied by half a tomato, sliced and lightly salted, celery sticks with peanut butter, and a glass of ice water.

And so ends Day Two.

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