“It is both possible and morally necessary to find ways for farmers and others to make a fair living while providing accessible, healthy food to their communities.” -Claire Hermann, Come to the Table’s co-founder
This question of how we can accomplish this morally necessary and yet extremely challenging business of building a more equitable food system has been the central question of our work since Come to the Table was founded in 2006. In 2014, we launched a three year participatory research project funded by the Duke Endowment in order to study two main questions:
- What are the barriers and opportunities for farmers selling into low wealth communities?
- What are the linchpin points in the market chain where public or philanthropic investment could open sustainable, entrepreneurial food access solutions? I.e. How can we best use our resources to build a more equitable food system?
In 2014 we partnered with the University of Missouri to conduct a literature review to determine what data already exists and identify gaps in research. We’ll be releasing the full report in the spring of 2015. Here’s a sneak peek into what we discovered:
- Almost all quantitative data available on farmers selling to low income communities is focused on SNAP sales at farmers markets
- As of 2013, 35% of US farmers markets were authorized to accept SNAP benefits
- In 2013, SNAP recipients in the US spent $21.1 mil at farmers markets or directly with farmers, .03% of all SNAP benefits
- In 2013, SNAP recipients in North Carolina spent $152,000 at farmers markets, .006% of all SNAP benefits
There are many new food access initiatives emerging to connect farmers with low income consumers, such as sliding scale CSA’s, food hubs, mobile markets, SNAP at farmers markets and more, but little data on the impact these initiatives have on farmer revenue. Even in the case of SNAP sales at farmers markets, although dollar amounts received at farmers markets is available, we do not know how many farmers this represents or what % SNAP sales are of farmers total revenue.
In the Winter and Spring of 2015, RAFI is partnering with NC State and CEFS to conduct interviews with approximately 30 North Carolina farmers to better understand their perspective. We will make key findings publicly available and use the interviews to inform our next steps, which may include a broader farmer survey with a larger sample size, analysis comparing SNAP household budgets with the cost of production for specific crops, and more.
Our ultimate goal is to use research results to support entrepreneurial and community based solutions to food access. Our first Beyond Hunger Relief workshops will be held during the 2015 Come to the Table conference series. We’ll be updating this page with research findings as well as workshop and training opportunities, so stay tuned!