Why you should care August is produce month in Pa.

PHILADELPHIA, July 27 August is “Produce Month” in Pennsylvania where we take time to pay tribute to those involved with growing or selling local food products. More than 4,300 family farms operate in Pennsylvania, helping the agriculture industry pump millions of dollars every year into our economy. However, it is also a time when I want to ensure that we increase access to fresh, nutritious produce for those in the most need.

The Pennsylvania Farmers Market Nutrition Program provides an excellent opportunity to address issues of both hunger and food insecurity in low-income communities, especially for those most vulnerable members – seniors and children. It is through the Senior and WIC voucher distribution that many families are able to access fresh, healthy foods.

As a member of the House Agriculture Committee in the Pennsylvania General Assembly, I recently learned voucher redemption rates amongst seniors are high, but only 43 percent of those checks issued to WIC recipients were redeemed in Philadelphia in 2016, which is 6 percent less than 2015. This has been primarily attributed to the locations of the farmers’ markets. There are several locations throughout the city, however, there is only one in the far corner of my district. For most, the other locations are distant and difficult to reach. We know that decreased access to healthy foods means people in low-income communities suffer more from diet-related diseases like obesity and diabetes compared to those in higher-income neighborhoods with easier access to healthy food, particularly fresh fruits and vegetables.

Expanding farmers’ markets and farm stands is needed to provide better access in certain communities. To address the issue, I will be hosting a Pop Up Produce series to increase access to fresh fruits and vegetables within our community from now until November. Farmers will be available to accept WIC checks and senior produce vouchers. A mobile teaching kitchen will also be on hand to assist in preparing healthy and nutritious meals. The events will be at Shepard Recreation Center from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. at the dates below:

•           July 25

•           Aug. 29

•           Sept. 26

•           Oct. 31

•           Nov. 28

You can also support local growers by purchasing produce from farmers’ markets or taking part in the Community Supported Agriculture program. More information on CSA can be found at https://www.pasafarming.org/resources/resources/pennsylvania-csa-guide.