Recent Updates to SNAP: What You Should Know

Blog post by: Carina Berglund, Dietetic Intern

Upcoming Changes to SNAP Benefits

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is a program from the U.S Department of Agriculture that provides monthly benefits to eligible individuals and families to assist with purchasing food. Benefits are calculated based on the Thrifty Food Plan which is a cost-conscious estimate of what groceries would cost for a family of two adults aged 20-50 and two children aged 6-8 and 9-11. The amount each recipient gets is then adjusted accordingly by family size. There have recently been some changes made to the SNAP program regarding benefits so here are the key points you need to know: 

Emergency Allotment and 15% Boost to Benefits End

Since March 2020, SNAP participants have been receiving the maximum benefit for their household size under the Families First Coronavirus Relief Act. For example, the maximum monthly benefit for a family of 4 is $680, so under the emergency allotment, all families of 4 have received $680 monthly to purchase food. As January 2021, recipients have also had a temporary 15% increase in benefits so that family of 4 receives a total of $782. The 15% boost and the emergency allotments will be ending September 30, meaning that all recipients will go back to receiving a monthly benefit based on their income and the Thrifty Food Plan. 

Average SNAP benefits will increase

After a review of the Thrifty Food Plan to reflect current food costs and calorie needs, the USDA found that a nutritious cost effective diet costs 21% more than the current Thrifty Food Plan. This means that there will be in increase in SNAP benefits to reflect these changes to the Thrifty Food Plan. The average monthly benefit per person will increase by about $36 starting October 1. 

P-EBT Continues Through the Upcoming School Year 

Under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, households with children who receive free or reduced lunch would receive Pandemic-Electronic Benefit Transfers (P-EBT). P-EBT will be continuing through the 2021-22 school year. This benefit helps to assist families with the cost of meals for children who would be receiving free or reduced meals during an in-person school day. The P-EBT benefit can be spent the same way as  SNAP/EBT on food items at the grocery store or anywhere SNAP/EBT is accepted. The benefit amount per child each day is $3.75 for lunch, $2.35 for breakfast, and $1.00 for a snack for a total of $7.10. The benefits are given out at the beginning of each month, so eligible families will receive about $142 per child each month. If you are a SNAP/EBT recipient and your child is enrolled in the free or reduced lunch program, your P-EBT benefits will be automatically added to your EBT card each month. If you are not a SNAP/EBT recipient or your child is not currently enrolled in free or reduced lunch, visit https://nheasy.nh.gov/ to apply for P-EBT. 

Conclusion

In summary, you will see a change in your benefit amount starting at the end of September. There will be a decrease due to the end of the emergency allotment and 15% boost, so benefits will again be based on household size, the Thrifty Food Plan, and income as they were pre-COVID. However, based on the review of the Thrifty Food Plan your monthly benefit will have a permanent increase from pre-COVID amounts. This permanent increase in benefits will be around $36 per person each month. Eligible households will continue to receive P-EBT benefits in the amount of $142 each month per child enrolled in free or reduced lunch. 

To use your SNAP benefits locally, click here to find a farmers’ market or farm stand that accepts EBT, you can even get 50% off of fruits and vegetables with Granite State Market Match!

Sources

https://www.fns.usda.gov/blog/tfp-what-it-and-why-it-matters 

 

https://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/emergency-allotments-guidance-040121 

 

https://www.fns.usda.gov/news-item/usda-0179.21?eType=EmailBlastContent&eId=19612159-2f0d-4110-a1b8-931c2a29de61 

 

https://fns-prod.azureedge.net/sites/default/files/resource-files/Attachment-2-SY-21-22-State-Plan-for-Pandemic-EBT.pdf 

 

Our Food Has A Story: Trippy Acres Farm

Blog Post By: Carina Berglund, Dietetic Intern

From nursing to farming: I talked with Melissa of Trippy Acres to learn more about their farm and what has motivated them to produce and sell their own food. 

Can you tell me a little bit about your background and how Trippy Acres came to be? 

“So I had been a nurse for about 10 years, but I also had a ton of education I took on the side  and certifications in holistic health, food is medicine, things like that. I have always had a hobby of growing my own food, and the more I researched food as a whole, the more I learned that you just don’t know where your food is coming from. So, I started getting into my own food sources and really knowing that the biggest way I can support my health and my family was to grow my own food. And it just kind of blossomed and flourished from there. I always grew more than I needed, so I was always donating and giving, and I’ve had a lot of people come to the house and say ‘you should sell this’ and I always thought ‘that’s silly anyone can grow food’. And that way always my thought process. But I think the difference is people always don’t have the time or the money or the energy to really dedicate to it. Being able to support the local community with healthy food is a huge passion of mine and that’s where it’s always been based off of.”

Why do you think it’s important for people to eat local?

“Oh there’s so many reasons! First of all, it helps the local economy and the local people. I’m a big believer in going back to old school communities. I think that’s the best way we can support each other. Also because the food is healthier. It’s grown in the soil that you live on. So, if people do use pesticides, they are only spraying for what they need to spray for. It’s also fresher right from the vine -the food isn’t being shipped. Some of the food you get at a grocery store is over a month old, and it’s losing a lot of nutrients every day that it sits on a truck.”

How much time do you put towards working on the farm each week?

“Well in the spring and fall over 40 hours a week. I’d say 60 hours a week. It depends on the week too. When we’re processing our chickens that’s a 10 hour day. But between feeding the animals, taking care of the animals, rotating the animals, putting seed in, taking care of the farm, I’d say between 50-60 hours a week. But in the winter, it’s really just taking care of the animals and getting by because we really don’t have a garden, so there’s a lot less time. There’s more time behind the scenes like computer work and things like that. So I’d say in the winter 20 hours a week.”

What is the best part of your job?

“Oh goodness, so many things! I think my favorite part is just being able to have my own space to be able to grow the food I want to grow, the way that I want to grow it. I’m really, really picky. My background is in nursing, and I have a lot of education in holistic medicine, so I know from an educational standpoint that where your food comes from matters. But I think my favorite part is really being able to see everything going from zero to what we have here which is a table full of fruits and veggies. My second favorite part is being able to raise my kids in that kind of environment to be able to learn where your food comes from because I think that is a HUGE piece that a lot of people don’t really understand or see.” 

What is the most challenging part of your job?

“The daily grind. There are days where you’re just like ‘ugh I do not want to get up right now and do this’ but you just have to and you just push through and you do it. But in the end, it’s all worth it 100%. There’s never a day where I wish I didn’t choose to do this. But it’s definitely the daily grind, just the repetition of it is the hardest part.”

Where can people go to buy your food?

 We go to the Durham, Dover, Rochester markets. We also sell off our farm. We’re hopping next year to expand. We just bought our first set of pigs so next year we’ll hopefully be able to offer some pork products. 

To find out more about Trippy Acres, find them on Facebook, Instagram, and their website: https://www.trippyacresfarm.com/ 

 

Shopping Farmers’ Markets and Farm Stands on a Budget

Blog Post by: Carina Berglund, Dietetic Intern

Many people think that shopping local is more expensive than conventional grocery stores, but that is not always the case! Here are some tips to help you shop your local farmer’s markets and farm stands while staying on a budget and getting the most use out of your purchases. 

– Plan Ahead

One of the best ways to save money at a farmer’s market or farm stand is to go there with a plan. Before you go, take some time to think about when you plan on shopping for food next and what you already have that needs to get used. With that in mind, create a food plan for now until your next shopping trip, focusing on creating meals around the foods that will spoil first. Add the additional items you will need to your shopping list to keep you on track at the market. Planning ahead helps to keep spending low and also decreases household food waste!

  Shop Around

Another way to shop farmer’s markets on a budget is take a few minutes when you get there to walk around and see not only which stands have what you need but also which ones have each of the items on your list for the lowest price. Once you find the vendors that have what you need at the best price, go back and make your purchases. Oftentimes, vendors will have different prices form each other for different items, so while one might have the best price on tomatoes, another one might have the best price on squash. By spreading your shopping over multiple different vendors, you can get what you need at a low price while also supporting all of your favorite farms in one trip!

– Look for Seconds

Many farms will have a section of “seconds” which are produce that may not be picture perfect but are still perfectly acceptable to eat. These fruits and veggies are sold at a discounted price. They can be eaten fresh, or they are great options to use in canning. 

What to do with Extra Food

-Freeze Fruits and Veggies to Use Later

If you notice some food is starting to get to the end of its shelf life, a great way to preserve it for use later is to freeze it! Veggies will store better in the freezer if cooked first. The easiest way to do this is to boil them until cooked and immediately place in cold water until they are cooled off. Once cool, put the vegetables in an airtight container or a sealed freezer bag until you are ready to eat them.

 Fruit does not need to be cooked before freezing, just put into an airtight container or sealed freezer bag. You can even freeze a mix of fruits ahead of time for single serve smoothies on the go!

There are two ways to freeze fresh herbs. Dry them on a paper towel for 24 hours and place in the freezer in an airtight container or freezer bag. You can also freeze fresh herbs by putting them in an ice tray with a little bit of water. Then, you just pull out a cube and add it to season your dish!

Make Meals to Freeze

Another way to save food that may otherwise go bad is to make a meal with it that you will freeze to eat later. Soups are a great way to use lots of fresh seasonal veggies in one meal! Chop up whatever is at risk of going bad and add it to a pot with some broth and the grain of your choice for a delicious meal you can enjoy later. Freeze it in single or family sized containers and reheat on the stove or microwave when you are ready to eat it. 

– Pickling 

If you want to learn a new skill, another way you can preserve your vegetables to extend their shelf life is to pickle them. The best vegetables to do this with are cucumbers, carrots, green beans, beets, and red onions. For the quick pickling method, simply cut up the vegetables and place into a clean wide-mouth pint jar, leaving half an inch of space at the top with your desired herbs and spices. Then bring 1 cup of water, 1 cup of vinegar and 1 tablespoon of salt to a boil until everything is dissolved. Pour the brine over the vegetables leaving a half inch at the top. Tightly screw on the lid, allow the jars to come to room temperature, and place in the refrigerator for 48 hours. For more information on canning and pickling click here.

Recipes

One of the best ways to use up lots of fresh local products and is always a crowd favorite is a fresh salsa. Plus, it is an extremely flexible recipe so you can modify it to use ingredients you already have at home. Peaches and tomatoes are in season right now and they are the perfect base for delicious summer salsa. 

Summer Peach Salsa

3 medium peaches, diced (can substitute 3 tomatoes)

1/2 bell pepper, diced

1/3  cup diced red onion

Juice of 1 lime 

1 jalapeno, minced (optional)

Salt and pepper to taste

Simply mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl and refrigerate until you are ready to use. Serve it with a side of chips, as a topping on grilled chicken salads, or with any dish to add a pop of color and flavor. 

This grilled summer squash recipe is perfect for grilling on a hot day, but you can also make it in your oven as well. Instead of putting the squash on the grill, cook them in a 350-degree oven under tender. 

Grilled Stuffed Summer Squash 

4 teaspoons olive oil 

1 bell pepper, diced

1 cup chopped onion

1 cup quartered cherry tomatoes 

¼ cup chopped basil 

4 summer squash (or any squash you have on hand)

Shredded cheese (optional)

Salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat grill for indirect heat on one side

2. On a skillet over medium heat, add 2 teaspoons oil, bell pepper, onion, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring often until the vegetables are soft and turning brown, about 5 minutes. Then remove from heat and add tomatoes and basil 

3. Cut the squash in half lengthwise and remove the seeds with a spoon. Brush the remaining 2 teaspoons of olive oil over the squash

4. Place the squash cut side down on the hot side of the grill until they start to soften, for about 5-8 minutes. Then flip them over cut side up onto the nonheated half of the grill. Divide the cooked vegetable filling between the squashes and sprinkle with shredded cheese. 

5. Cover the grill and cook until the squash is tender, for about 15-18 minutes. 

Kicking off the Summer Market Season: My First Three Months as SNAP Ambassador

Blog Post Written by: Kerry Hull, SNAP Ambassador
As I close in on my third month as SNAP Ambassador for Seacoast Eat Local, I reflect on the experiences I have had so far. For years leading up to this position, I had an increasing passion for food accessibility and food justice. After graduating from the University of New Hampshire this past Spring, I aimed to put my passion for food justice into action. During my time at Seacoast Eat Local, I have been able to do exactly that.
At each market, I get to interact with a variety of wonderful people. They visit the Seacoast Eat Local table for many different reasons, from purchasing SNAP or debit tokens to spend around the market, to gathering issues of our informational magazine Seacoast Harvest. Nearly every patron that visits my table is interested in learning about what role Seacoast Eat Local plays in the market and the surrounding communities, and they are always looking to spread the word about the services we provide. I am often approached by people with smiles on their faces, which is what makes my job most enjoyable.
My favorite part about providing services at each market is conversing with the customers that participate in the SNAP program. They are always thanking me and Seacoast Eat Local as an organization for making fresh local food more accessible and affordable. Our SNAP participants are some of the most appreciative people I have met, and whenever they thank me I feel like I am contributing towards the movement for better food access in underprivileged communities.
Another benefit of my job is that I get to be surrounded by local growers, many of which I have formed great relationships with. I find it important that we learn where our food comes from and more importantly, who grows it, and I get to learn about both of those at each market. Each farmer that I get to talk to at markets is passionate about what they do, and they are quite the inspiration for young, eager, food-focused people like me!
This job has already provided me with amazing social experiences and interactions, and I aim to continue the good work for many years to come.

Summer Ratatouille Recipe

Blog Post Written By: Briella Hirsch, UNH Sustainability Fellow

We are creating a spin-off of the classic French dish, Ratatouille. This delicious recipe utilizes all of the late-summer vegetables- eggplant, summer squash, zucchini, tomatoes and bell pepper. 

 

I made this recipe for my family, and they were in awe over the flavors that came from such a simple, vegetarian dish. I paired my Ratatouille with toasted bread, drizzled in olive oil, but it also can be served as a side with protein, or try on top of eggs, its truly egg-cellent! However, you decide to eat it, the Ratatouille gets better as it sits, so make a big batch and enjoy the leftovers over and over again. Make sure to scroll down to the bottom to watch our Youtube video for this recipe.

Reasons to love Ratatouille

  • It utilizes all the late-summer veggies

Trying to find use for all your veggies, packed in one? Well, do we have the recipe for you! Fresh vegetables really make this dish, so get your vegetables at your local farm or farmer’s market.

  • Its vegan and gluten-free

For all my friends with dietary restrictions, we have your back. Just choose your accompaniments accordingly.

  • You don’t need to be a veggie lover to love this meal!

I made this for my entire family, and some were hesitant about the eggplant and summer squash. Needless to say, they changed their minds after one bite.

  • Ratatouille is great to refrigerate or freeze

Like wine, ratatouille gets better with time. It arguably tastes even better the next day and reheats beautifully. 

 

Ratatouille Ingredients

Fresh tomatoes

 

Fresh tomatoes are the secret ingredient to making a sweet, fresh sauce for the base of the ratatouille. You can use large heirloom tomatoes or small grape tomatoes. I used a grater to make them into a tomato paste consistency, but you can always use a food processor or cut them into small pieces and smash with a fork.

 

If you are unable to access fresh tomatoes, you can choose to use canned tomatoes or a premade tomato sauce, but fresh tomatoes are the best!

Eggplant

Prior to sautéing the eggplant, I like to spread the eggplant cubes on a baking sheet and season with salt. This draws the excess moisture out of the eggplant and gives it a softer, more tender texture.  


Zucchini and Summer Squash

Both of these

veggies have similar cook times, so I threw both of them into the pan and cooked them together. They add great color and flavor to the recipe, but feel free to use on or the other if you don’t have both.

 

Bell pepper

You can use red, orange or yellow bell pepper, pick your poison!

Yellow onion

Yellow onions are ideal for caramelizing, and they make a great base for the tomato sauce.

Olive Oil

Sautée all the vegetables with olive oil to get those beautifully caramelized edges. Olive oil is also one of the healthiest foods you can eat for heart health.

Basil and Seasoning

The fresh basil and seasonings, really make this dish come alive. Basil is in season, so make sure to grab a bunch from your local farmers market! The sugar will be added to the tomato base to add a touch of sweetness. The garlic will also be added to the tomato base, and I threw the thyme in at the end and let it marinate with all the ingredients to add some flavor. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Ratatouille Serving Suggestions

 

Another reason to love this dish; there are so many fun ways to incorporate this into your meals.

  • Use it as a main with some toasted bread
  • Make as a fresh side and serve with your choice of protein
  • Utilize it as leftover and try it on top of eggs (Do it! Its EGG-cellent!)
  • Serve it over fresh pasta
  • If you’re a cheese lover like me, try it with sprinkled parmesan or melt some mozzarella on top!

 

 

Suggested Equipment

 

  • 2 non-stick sauté pans
    • One will be utilized for the tomato base and another one will cook the veggies. It’ll be more efficient to let the tomato base cook on low heat while you’re sautéing the veggies. 
  • Grater or food processor for breaking down the fresh tomatoes
  • Cutting board
  • Sharp knife
  • Stove top

 

Ratatouille Ingredients

  • Two large tomatoes or a half pound of mini cherry tomatoes
  • 1 medium eggplant, diced into cubes
  • 1 summer squash, diced into cubes
  • 1 zucchini, diced into cubes
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 1 bell pepper, red, yellow or orange
  • 3 gloves of garlic, minced
  • Handful of fresh basil
  • 3 sprigs of thyme
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

 

Instructions

  1. Dice your bell pepper and onion into small cubes. Use a grater, food processor or fork to mash your tomato into o a paste consistency. Add 1 tbsp olive to a pan and sauté onion and bell pepper until caramelized. Add in your crushed tomatoes, garlic and sugar. Cook for 4-5min. Take off the heat and garnish with fresh basil.
  2. Cut the eggplant, zucchini and summer squash into 1/2-inch cubes. Sauté the eggplant first with 1 tbsp olive oil, for 8-10 minutes until golden brown. Put sautéed eggplant aside andcook summer squash and zucchini, with olive oil on the stove top for 6-8 minutes. 
  3. Add sautéed vegetables to tomato sauce and add thyme, salt and pepper to taste. Leave on low heat for 4-5 minutes for flavors to combine. Sprinkle with fresh basil and serve.

 

 

Summer Staple: Tuna Pasta Salad

Blog Post Written By: Briella Hirsch, UNH Sustainability Fellow

We have the perfect dish for you to bring to your next summer cookout or gathering! Many of these ingredients can be found at your local farmers’ market or farm stand. This colorful, flavorful, easy to make tuna pasta salad, will sure be a fan favorite. You can always switch up the recipe depending on what you have on hand and what is seasonally available to you where you live. Here is what you will need to recreate this dish. Scroll down to the bottom of this post for our Youtube video for this recipe. 

 

 

Ingredients

  • 1 box (16 oz) pasta
  • 3 cans (5 oz) tuna
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 cup tomatoes
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup diced dill pickles
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper

 

 

Instructions

  1. Cook pasta according to directions on the package. 
  2. In a separate bowl, combine mayonnaise, red onion, tomato, pickles, lemon juice, salt & pepper. Stir well to combine.
  3. Stir in tuna.
  4. Once macaroni is cooked, drain well and rinse with cold water until pasta has cooled. Pour drained macaroni into a large bowl.
  5. Pour mayonnaise mixture onto pasta.
  6. Then add thawed peas. Stir well.
  7. Cover bowl with plastic wrap.
  8. Put bowl into the fridge for a couple of hours, then serve.

Local Ingredients: If fresh peas are in season, which happens to be right now (June-July) you could swap the frozen peas for fresh ones. To find out what produce is in season during every month of the year click here to find our harvest calendar. You can currently find peas at your local farmers’ market, to find a farmers’ market near you click here. There are also local pasta varieties available at farm stands and farmers’ markets, Valicenti Pasta Farm happens to have many varieties to choose from. You could also make your own pickles or there are some wonderful canners locally including but not limited to Debbie D’s Homemade and Cassie’s Canning Cabinet. If you wanted to use fresh, local fish you could also substitute the canned tuna for a variety available from a fishery local to you, click here to learn more about local seafood.

Easy Lemon-Garlic Kale Salad

Blog Post Written By: Briella Hirsch, UNH Fellow

It’s official, we have kicked off our new pilot program, Refresh! We at Seacoast Eat Local are proud to be partnering with Whole Foods Market and Red’s Good Vibes to help connect SNAP and low-income recipients to healthy, locally sourced food. We all share the same belief that all people should have access to fresh, local produce and that is why we have come together to pursue that vision. 

REFRESH is an introductory subscription program that delivers biweekly shares of produce from a variety of farms and producers. More than supplying healthy, local food, the REFRESH program will educate low-income customers about the value of eating local food and connect them with resources that will help them become long-term customers of the farmers and producers in their community. REFRESH hopes to contribute to a thriving local food economy, supporting local agriculture and food access for all!

We are sharing this recipe on our blog as well as in the subscription box for the program. Today we have for you, a delicious lemon-garlic kale recipe as well as tips and tricks for preserving kale. Scroll to the bottom of this post for our new Youtube video of this recipe! 

Ingredients

  • -2 cups sliced almonds
  • -⅓ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 2 to 4 lemons)
  • -Kosher salt
  • -1 ½ cups extra-virgin olive oil
  • -4 cloves garlic, crushed with the flat side of a knife, peeled and minced
  • -10 to 12 ounces washed and dried kale leaves, thick stems removed (weight after trimming)
  • -1 ½ cups freshly grated Parmesan (optional)

 

Instructions

In a bowl, combine lemon juice and 1 teaspoon salt. Whisk in olive oil, add garlic and set aside.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Working in batches, cut the kale into thin ribbons: gather a large handful of leaves, bunch together tightly, and use the other hand to slice into 1/4-inch-thick pieces. This does not need to be done very precisely or neatly; the idea is to end up with a kind of slaw.

 

 

 

 

Place chopped kale in a very large bowl. Sprinkle surface with almonds and then with cheese, if using. Pour half the dressing over the salad and toss. Taste for dressing and salt and add more as needed, tossing to coat thoroughly. Serve within 1 hour.

 

 

 

 

 

How to Preserve Kale

Keep moisture at a minimum and store kale loosely in plastic bag or dish towel. You can preserve kale by making pesto and freezing it to use on sandwiches, pizza dough, pasta, or on veggies!

USDA Announces: All School Meals will be FREE Through June 2021

Written by Leila G., UNH Dietetic Intern

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, national school meal programs, like the School Breakfast Program and National School Lunch Program, had been providing breakfast and lunch to roughly 30 million students from low-income families each day. These programs have played a crucial role in providing these children and teens with adequate nutrition who may not be receiving nutritious meals at home. 

Due to the pandemic, an overwhelming number of individuals in the country became unemployed, which has consequently resulted in many more people facing serious economic hardship. Immense stress has been placed upon families with children especially, as parents continue to juggle working remotely while caring for their children who are learning online from home. Food insecurity has also become a significant stressor, as there are now triple the number of households with children being classified as food insecure. Many of these households have already struggled, and now continue to struggle, to provide enough food for their families. 

Several months ago, shortly after the pandemic began, the USDA announced the nationwide meal waivers under the Summer Food Service Program and Seamless Summer Option, for all students under the age of 18. These waivers ensure the following: 

  • Summer Food Service Program and Seamless Summer Option meals can be served anywhere and at no cost
  • Group settings and mealtimes that are usually required are not pertinent to meals being served 
  • Meal pattern requirements are waived as necessary
  • Parents/caregivers can pick up meals for their children from any school site

The waivers were administered under these two programs as they offer greater flexibilities than the School Breakfast Program and National School Lunch Program. With this, many families were reassured that their children would be provided with nutritious meals at no cost. However, there were expiration dates on these waivers, as it had been indicated by the USDA that they would last till the end of 2020 or until funding ran out. This created question and uncertainty for families with children, school nutrition directors and administrators, child nutrition advocates, registered dietitians and other healthcare professionals, and more. Therefore, many of these individuals were pleased to see the USDA extend these waivers multiple times within the past few months, once to last till August 2020 and again, modified to last till December 2020. These extensions have allowed school districts to continue serving all school children free meals regardless of school enrollment. They also have allowed parents/caregivers to continue being able to pick up meals from any school site, rather than be required to only pick up from the school in which their child is enrolled in. 

About a month ago, on October 9th, the USDA announced that these waivers will again be extended throughout the 2020-2021 academic school year, specifically till June 2021. This update attempts to meet the hunger needs of all children as the nation continues to navigate through the pandemic. It also attempts to avoid placing more stress on school administration and eliminate stigma associated with receiving free (and/or reduced meals). 

This extension is a positive for sure, as school districts nationwide will be able to continue providing nutritious meals to children and teens. In some school districts, meal sites have been centralized in places such as churches or large apartment complexes. Meal sites have been placed at bus stops along bus routes and have even been delivered to homes. Even locally here in the Seacoast region, schools have made great efforts to feed students and provide them with the access they need to nutritious food. In fact, the City of Portsmouth has already updated their specific website regarding the recent waiver extension update, emphasizing free meals for all students and providing clear instructions on how families can continue to obtain these meals. Breakfast and lunch will continue to be served daily to students attending school in-person. And for families with remote learners, curbside pick-up at either the local middle or high school will continue to be available. The Rockingham County Food & Nutrition Services website also has clear indication on free school meals for all students and instructions for parents/caregivers on how to obtain these via curbside pickup for remote learners. The York School Department (YSD) has updated their Facebook page with information of the recent news, along with other resources on free school meals, and marketing lunches via aesthetically-pleasing photos of the food they continue to serve. YSD has also been providing the ability for students who are learning via the hybrid option to have breakfast and lunch sent home with them to last for a couple days until they attend in-person the next week. Similar to Rockingham and York county, Strafford County has also developed an organized system since the start of the pandemic to ensure nutritious meals are served to all students, utilizing several towns and locations within the county as sites. Many of the schools in these counties are utilizing an online customized meal order form, similar to grab-and-go services like DoorDash and Grubhub. It looks like these systems will continue to be used throughout the academic year.

However, there remains a question: are all the students who need school meals the most actually receiving them? It appears that despite these extraordinary efforts made by schools, counties, and towns, the participation rates remain quite low. Unfortunately, some schools, even here in the Seacoast region, are only providing curbside pickup on specific days of the week. This poses an issue for parents/caregivers who may not be able to pick up food on those days or even pick up meals at all, if they don’t have means of transportation. Schools allowing pick up for multiple days of meals in a single visit, like YSD, seems to be a minor solution, at least for the parents/caregivers who can pick up on at least one of the specific days. The nutrient-density of meals is also something to consider, as the grab-and-go-/delivery options previously mentioned are typically associated with packaged, processed foods, which can often be less fresh and less nutritious. 

Moving forward, more must be done. Schools have made attempts, but it’s going to require further innovative efforts to improve the issue of child hunger, especially as it relates to the pandemic’s impact. Schools need more funding as they continue to adapt to the new norm. Providing schools with more money will assist them in addressing the increasing rates of food insecurity and allow them to achieve better health outcomes for students and families, especially those who need it most. In a broader context, there needs to be more thought and resources put into improving protocol for school pandemic safety. Ultimately, if schools can fully reopen safely, they’ll be able to provide children access to free meals as it all once was.

 

References:

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/usda-free-meals-for-kids-schools-program-extended-as-children-start-school-amid-coronavirus-pandemic/ 

https://www.ednc.org/usda-extends-free-meals-for-all-students-through-2020/ 

https://www.usda.gov/media/press-releases/2020/10/09/trump-administration-extends-free-meals-kids-entire-school-year 

https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2020/10/28/how-politics-keeps-14-million-american-kids-getting-enough-food-column/6051427002/ 

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-10-21/covid-pandemic-online-teaching-means-fewer-students-get-free-school-meals 

COVID-19 and Local Food Access

The increase in unemployment has left many of our neighbors food insecure. Food insecurity is not a new problem, however it is growing more rapidly due to the increased rate of unemployment due to COVID-19. Some individuals may have never experienced the stress related to having to choose between paying for a place to live versus putting food on the table, but it is becoming increasingly more common. The good news is there are local resources to help those in need at this time. If you are familiar with other resources that are available but not listed please share in the comments. 

Food Access Resources

Listing of local food pantries

Do you have an excess of food in your garden? Click here for Food Pantries that accept fresh foods

Where you can use your SNAP benefits locally. 

Local Farmers’ Markets Schedule

Updates on our Winter Farmers’ Markets in Exeter and Rollinsford


NH Food Access Map was created to enable food access organizations to offer and list services and share them with the public. The map includes a directory of pantries/meals, local food discounts/benefits, nutrition assistance, and summer meals.

The New Hampshire Food Bank works to distribute millions of pounds of food to partner agencies each year. If you are in need of food, please contact your local Food Pantry or call the NH Food Bank SNAP Outreach Coordinator who can assist you in applying for SNAP (Food Stamps) at 603-669-9725 ext. 1147.

To sign up for SNAP go to www.nheasy.nh.gov

Gather is an agency committed to ending hunger in Seacoast, NH located in Portsmouth. Gather offers many services, a few include:

Gather’s Pantry market is open:

MONDAY-THURSDAY:  10A-5PM (PANTRY MARKET)

FRIDAY:  9A-1P (COMMUNITY FRIDAY: OUTDOORS AT COMMUNITY CAMPUS)

Please bring a photo ID + proof of residency. 

Meals 4 Kids is a program offered by Gather that is available to all school aged-children that are eligible for free or reduced school lunch. Each week children receive healthy ingredients and recipes for 10 meals.

Local Food Access News

The NH Food Bank in partnership with the NH Food Alliance, NH Farm Bureau and NOFA-NH  are proud to announce the pilot launch of “NH Feeding NH” a statewide initiative designed to support the purchase of NH grown food to feed our food insecure neighbors with nutritious locally grown produce throughout NH communities during COVID-19 and beyond, something we believe every Granite Stater should have access to.

While unemployment continues to rise, many restaurants, schools and farmers markets are closed across the state, which also means many of our farms have lost their outlet to sell their product. This program, modeled after our neighbors in Vermont and Maine, will not only support our local farmers, but will also help nourish communities in need.

SAMM, The Seacoast Area Mobile Market, is Seacoast Eat Local’s mobile market, and was the first mobile market of its kind in New Hampshire! This year, we’ve shifted the focus of SAMM to help meet the needs of people most affected by COVID-19. We’re purchasing fresh food from farmers that have lost sales outlets and are donating that food to area food pantries and senior housing communities.  This enables people who have no other option of getting fresh local food to their table an equitable opportunity to enjoy the local harvest. During the season, we’re reaching over 400 households per week. Thanks to our partners for the season: NH Charitable Foundation, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation, Gather Food Pantry, and Tuckaway Farm.

Check out this great article written about SAMM. 

 

*All photos featured in this post were taken prior to COVID-19.

9 Reasons to Shop at Farmers’ Markets During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Shopping of any nature can seem like a daunting task on a normal day, and even more difficult during the COVID-19 crisis. Usually farmers’ markets are seen as a social event along with a food access point however this year things are a little different. Everyone is concerned with hygiene and sanitization in the pursuit of staying healthy and virus free, and farmers’ markets are no different. Here are nine reasons to shop at farmers’ markets during the COVID-19 pandemic and why they are among the safest and best places to grocery shop.

  1. Farmers’ market aisles are the widest of any market, indoors or out! This makes social distancing procedures easier to follow.
 Many markets are even mapping out the route customers should take through the market to keep traffic all heading in one direction. Vendors are spaced out so that it is easier for customers to shop at the same time with different vendors.
  2. You are buying from the farms and often times even the farmers who harvested the produce. 
This means that far fewer hands have handled the food overall reducing the risk of transmission by surface contamination.
  3. Shopping outdoors means you are in the healthiest air you can breathe! Indoor air systems recirculate their air and with it the virus.
  4. When this all done, you will want your local farmers growing things you like to eat
. When shopping outside your local network of producers (usually products from grocery stores or the internet) many other people are included in the process which increases the risk of transmission of any illness or contaminant.
  5.  It’s more fun, and more relaxed! When the social distancing restrictions are lifted you can meet so many amazing people and local producers at the market. Keeping the markets going means when this all passes you can enjoy all the things markets have to offer.
  6. The farmers’ market can be thought of as your pantry.  They have fresh food every week, so you can stock up slowly, and count on us to have food every market day
. You don’t have to worry about inventory shortages like the grocery store.
  7. The food is fresher
. The food is often harvested within a few days if not the same day as the market, whereas at the grocery store the food has traveled long distances.
  8. You are helping to keep many of your neighbors in business and supporting your local economy. When you buy locally you are putting money directly into the pocket of the local food producer where they can use it to support their families.
  9. Supermarkets have many staff members that handle everything from unpacking, stocking, ringing, bagging, and more. When you shop at the farmers’ market usually there isn’t more than 1-2 people per stall and usually they are the ones who packed the product and even harvested it!

To find markets scheduled near you click here.