For people who are working hard to make ends meet every month, getting food on the table isn’t an easy task, especially when it comes to acquiring the healthier options and their steeper prices.
Traditionally, shoppers have looked to the local farmers markets to provide these healthy alternatives, but for people receiving food stamps this hasn’t always been an option that they can depend on.
This is true for 49 year-old James Rack, who happily resides in downtown Pittsburgh, where he enjoys meeting new people and faithfully watches a Pirates game every chance he gets. When he’s not cheering on the Buccos, James keeps busy washing dishes, housekeeping, and doing maintenance work for odd jobs, which can be hard to rely on.
But his most favorite thing to do is attend the local farmers markets, specifically the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership’s Market Square farmers market right down the block from him. “It’s my favorite day of the week,” says James.
James has been receiving food stamps for the past couple of years, and has recently begun participating in Just Harvest’s Fresh Access Program.In the past, access to fresh and locally grown foods wasn’t easy for shoppers, but now, thanks to Fresh Access and its card-swipe kiosk, shoppers at 17 Pittsburgh-area farmers markets can use their ACCESS, debit, and credit cards at markets.
James’ go-to things to buy at the market include any fruits and vegetables, which he enjoys experimenting with cooking. “I love how fresh they are; it’s fun to look forward to what I’m going to have for dinner,” he says.
Besides the large variety of fresh options, James’ favorite thing about going to the farmers markets is meeting new people. “That’s the real difference between a market and Giant Eagle, you get to see new faces and interact with others,” he says.
Thanks to the Fresh Access program, people like James and other food stamp shoppers can have access to fresh, nutritious, locally-grown and made products that many people may not have had ready access to in the past. Although he just recently began taking part in the Fresh Access program, James can already tell how much of an impact it’s making on his life.
When asked how he felt about the program, James said, “It’s a blessing.”
NOTE: Downtown Pittsburgh has two Fresh Access farmers markets! The Citiparks downtown market is now located in Mellon Square on Fridays, 10am-2pm through November 18.