Ohio groups ask officials to help farmers, families, and farmers markets
The coronavirus pandemic is negatively impacting small and mid-size farms, farmers markets, and families who rely on nutrition assistance.
The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, Produce Perks Midwest, Ohio Farmers Market Network, and Ohio Food Policy Network are asking state officials to consider policies to address the needs of the local food and farm system.
Amalie Lipstreu is the policy director of OEFFA.
“It’s been a really great group of people coming together to think about how we might be able to respond to this pandemic crisis in a way that really builds community resilience and health,” she says.
She tells Brownfield the groups are asking the Ohio Department of Agriculture to issue operational guidance to farmers markets, which are classified as essential businesses in the state.
“They need some direction on what they should and shouldn’t be doing,” she says. “Some have them have moved to online ordering, drive through pick-up, and some of them have cancelled all together.”
Lipstreu says another policy recommendation is that the state should develop or expand buy-up programs…
“Where farmers can be paid a fair wage for the produce they’ve grown and that food may be from people who lost restaurant markets,” she says. “For example, if they don’t have anywhere to sell their products, we don’t want to see that food go to waste. It would be wonderful to see it purchased and get into the emergency food system.”
Another recommendation includes expanding online food purchasing and delivery options for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) supplemental nutrition program.
“Some states have already participated in programs that allow online food purchasing for people involved in food assistance programs,” she says. “…People on food assistance should have this option and shouldn’t be put at more risk than anyone else.”
Other recommendations include providing incentives for alternative sales methods including online ordering and curbside pick-up, and including farmers selling to direct food outlets in aid packages for small businesses.
Nationally, from March to May, alternative market channels like farmers markets, farm-to-school, and farmers selling to food hubs like restaurants are projected to lose nearly $700 million, which could lead to a total loss to the economy of more than $1.3 billion.
Audio: Amalie Lipstreu