Four state level groups recently called on state leaders to adopt six policies that will help farmers, farmers’ markets, and low income food access.
OEFFA, Produce Perks Midwest, the Ohio Farmers’ Market Network, and the Ohio Food Policy Network, with input from Countryside and Summit Food Coalition, believe that decisive action is needed to ensure the survival of small and mid-scale family farmers that feed our communities and make sure Ohioans, particularly those receiving nutrition assistance, can access much needed fresh, local food in the months ahead.
In addition to the public impact, the group’s policy recommendations, are designed to address the broader economic impacts of COVID-19 on Ohio’s local food systems, especially among Ohio’s already under-served communities.
Nationally, from March to May 2020, alternative market channels—farmers markets, farm-to-school, and food hubs serving institutions and restaurants—are projected to lose more than $688 million in sales, leading to a payroll decline of up to $103.3 million, and a total loss to the economy of more than $1.3 billion.
We are asking Ohio’s leaders to:
- 1) Swiftly issue, in cooperation with the Ohio Farmers’ Market Network and others, operational guidance to farmers’ markets, as well as other direct market agricultural outlets, and provide resources to help them implement necessary changes, including sanitation supplies.
- 2) Develop or expand buy-up programs, such as the Ohio Agricultural Clearance Program, and pay farmers a fair price for produce, meat, and poultry items that have lost market venues and distribute them to the emergency food system.
- 3) Expand upon and increase opportunities for use of public assistance benefits with online food purchasing and delivery options, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) supplemental nutrition program.
- 4) Support the immediate expansion of Produce Perks to serve rapidly growing vulnerable populations, including individuals and households receiving unemployment benefits.
- 5) Provide incentives and assistance for alternative sales methods such as on-line ordering platforms, curbside pick-up at farmers’ markets, or relocating to larger public spaces in order to reduce handling at markets and promote social distancing.
- 6) Include farmers selling to direct food outlets, schools, restaurants, food hubs, and produce auctions in aid packages for small businesses negatively affected by the COVID-19 crisis.
If you support these recommendations, please contact Ohio Governor Mike DeWine now and encourage him to act immediately to make sure small and mid-size farmers, farmers’ markets, and families who rely on nutrition assistance don’t fall through the cracks, as we adapt to this crisis. We need a vibrant and just local food system now more than ever.
OEFFA appreciates the leadership Governor Mike DeWine has provided during this pandemic that will have far reaching implications for many sectors of our economy, our families, and our communities. As crisis responses continue to unfold, protecting food security by investing in Ohio farmers is essential.