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Our very own Sara George is recognized as a Minnesota Food Charter Champion.
For Sara George, Wabasha Farmers Market Manager, food access means that everyone has a variety of healthy food choices available to them regardless of their income, budget, location, or education.
Sara first became involved in improving healthy food access after she applied for SNAP/EBT benefits for the Wabasha Farmers Market. “It was then that I realized that there are many resources for families in need of food security, but it is not always clear who to turn to and what is allowed.” Sara became inspired and she started to recruit others in the community to spread the word about using SNAP/EBT at the farmers market. Read more on the Minnesota Food Charter website.
"I didn't realize food mattered until I found myself in a situation completely out of my control. I was bit by a snake and one thing led to another and I found myself knee deep in numerous medical issues and needing help putting food on my own table for my family. Upon obtaining SNAP benefits, there was a limit to where we could go in our own community due to the food desert I lived in, plus the stigma associated with WIC was very sad and hard to overcome. This was a challenge for my own family and I wanted to change that."
- Sara George
The importance of the Wabasha County Food Access Network. It all began with a letter.
“EBT/SNAP CHAMPIONS! Let’s Unite!” wrote Sara George, Wabasha Farmers Market Manager, in 2016. The letter invited those interested to attend a meeting at Wabasha County Public Health to work on increasing EBT usage at the Farmers Market. Today this group continues to meet and work toward increasing access to healthy food across Wabasha County.
The first meeting occurred in June 2016 with 16 participants who came ready and excited about working to find solutions to increase access to healthy foods for local underserved populations. As needs were identified, the group decided it was important to continue meeting. Next, a presentation from U of M Extension talked about the Minnesota Food Charter and afterwards we evolved into the Wabasha County Food Access Network (WCFAN). In addition to working with our county’s farmers markets on increasing use of EBT, the group has identified the following priorities:
- Increasing access to healthy foods for Seniors
- Reducing stigma attached to receiving services
- Increasing knowledge of healthy food opportunities through outreach, and
- Increasing access to affordable transportation.to access healthy foods.
WCFAN now meets quarterly, facilitated by Tina Moen, SHIP Coordinator, and members from U of M-Extension, Wabasha-Kellogg Area Food Shelf, Lake City Food Shelf, 3 Rivers, Saint Elizabeth’s Medical Center, Lake City Thursday Market, Wabasha Farmers Market, Wabasha County Social Services and Public Health, Workforce Development, WACRC, Minnesota Food Charter, and Faith Lutheran Church.
“This is an amazing group. We are thankful for Sara George’s vision and ambition in pulling this together. There is a wealth of information shared at these meetings. In addition to having a well–rounded group of committed people at the table I don’t know if we could have done the work we’ve done without them, and we are looking at growing and expanding.”
- Tina Moen, Wabasha County SHIP coordinator
SHIP, the Statewide Health Improvement Partnership, runs through the Minnesota Department of Health and provides grants to communities to implement strategies to increase access to healthy eating, physical activity and a tobacco-free lifestyle. You and your friends or colleagues can work on/and or learn about healthy eating strategies. Please join our efforts! If you would like information on the Wabasha County Food Access Network, please contact Tina Moen, SHIP Coordinator, at 651-565-5200.
Pastor David Knox using active transportation to attend the WCFAN meeting.
EBT (Electronic Benefit Transfer) cards can be used to buy a variety of food including fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, poultry and dairy products as well as seeds and plants that produce food that can be eaten throughout the growing season. Using EBT at the market is easy. Once you’ve arrived at a participating market, simply look for the EBT/information booth and buy market tokens with your EBT card. The EBT/information booth is also where people can go to swipe their credit cards just like an EBT card and to receive tokens to be used at the market
Mini grant applications are due February 23, 2018. If you would like information on what it means to partner with SHIP on healthy eating, physical activity, and/or tobacco-free environment projects, please contact Tina Moen, SHIP Coordinator, at 651-565-5200.
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Elgin community garden has a new location!
The Elgin community garden has moved to 1st Street SE across from the Ambulance Building. Check it out! Visit the Elgin community garden website to learn more or call Kim McHugh at 507-876-2291.
Wabasha Farmers Market expands with the support of Wabasha County SHIP.
“The mission of Wabasha Downtown Farmers Market is to promote healthy lifestyles, offer a venue for personal interactions between consumers and producers, increase consumption of local produce and build and strengthen our community. I am excited to see everyone at the market.”
- Sara George, Wabasha Farmers Market Manager
While the Wabasha Farmers Market is a great place for residents to buy fresh and local fruits and vegetables, it’s now a place for local businesses to buy direct from growers. After more than three years of working to break through barriers that prevent farmers markets from being able to aggregate and sell healthy foods to local businesses such as schools, hospitals and restaurants, Wabasha Farmers Market obtained a Wholesale Food Handler’s License.
This complements the work of SHIP in Wabasha County, and will support Wabasha-Kellogg School District, Wabasha County, and Saint Elizabeth’s Medical Center with Farmers Market Shares. The plan is to expand this service with vendor, community and grant support in years to come. This expansion in services adds to the good work by the market over the past several years. For example, Wabasha Farmers Market first accepted EBT (Electronic Benefits Transfers) starting in May 2013.
Last spring, the market was approved to be included in the WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program (FMNP). Market manager, Sara George, had been working on obtaining acceptance into this program since 2013. Because of her hard work, low-income women, infants, children and seniors will be able to use these benefits at the Wabasha Farmers Market. “Sara’s efforts to support healthy food access in this county are highly valued,” said Tina Moen, Wabasha County SHIP Coordinator.
For more information on what it means to partner with SHIP in healthy eating, physical activity, and/or tobacco-free environment projects, please contact Tina Moen at email@example.com.
Wabasha Farmers Market season runs May 24th through October 2017.
LOCATION: Main Street West & Allegheny Avenue, next to Hill’s Hardware in Wabasha.
HOURS: Wednesdays 3:00-7:00 p.m. and Saturdays 9:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.
As seen on Wabasha Farmers Market Facebook page!
"Thankful for the help and support of the Wabasha County Statewide Health Improvement Partnership (SHIP), Minnesota Farmers Market Association (MFMA), Minnesota Institute of Sustainable Agriculture (MISA) and Renewing the Coutryside (RTC).
With a 2017 SHIP grant we were able to convert this trailer into a gorgeous walk-in cooler for our farmers market vendors to use to increase sales to local schools, hospitals, restaurants and even expand to doing a Market Share Box for members of our community!
Also a shout out to local resident Lee Hamil who volunteered 47+ hours to convert this trailer for us. Way to go!!"
What is Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program?
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP - formerly known as food support or food stamps) participants can now use their Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards to purchase affordable and healthy food at more than 80 markets across Minnesota.
EBT can be used to buy a variety of food including fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, poultry and dairy products as well as seeds and plants that produce food that can be eaten throughout the growing season.
Using EBT at the market is easy. Once you’ve arrived at a participating market, simply look for the EBT information booth and buy market tokens with your EBT card.
The EBT information booth is also where people can go to swipe their credit cards just like an EBT card and to receive tokens to be used at the market. Download a SNAP brochure here.
If you need assistance to apply, contact Three Rivers Community Action at 507-732-8511 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
What is the WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program?
The WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program (WIC-FMNP) is associated with the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC). WIC provides supplemental foods, health care referrals and nutrition education at no-cost to low income pregnant, breastfeeding and non-breastfeeding post-partum women, and to infants and children up to 5 years of age who are found to be at nutritional risk.
WIC-FMNP coupons can be picked up at the Wabasha County Public Health WIC office located at 411 Hiawatha Drive E, Wabasha.
What is Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP)?
Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) provides low income seniors with coupons that can be exchanged for eligible foods (fruits, vegetables, honey and fresh-cut herbs) at farmers markets, roadside stands and community-supported agriculture programs.
New community-based agriculture project in the City of Wabasha.
With the support of Wabasha County Statewide Health Improvement Partnership (SHIP), the City of Wabasha Public Works Department announces the addition of another garden plot for the community. Volunteers will plant an assortment of fruits and vegetables on three gardens and its gleanings will be made available to the public, free of charge.
Mickey Nelson, Master Gardner and volunteer, said “We are looking at the first and third Sunday, starting in July, from nine until ten each morning for community members to come on down and pick fruit and produce. Other weeks, donations will be made to organizations seeking fresh fruit and produce such as the Wabasha Area Food Shelf and possibly the Common Closet. This is definitely a work in progress.”
There will also be a number of fruit trees in the same lot near the garden, providing apples, pears and cherries to start. There are plans to increase the size of the current garden from the current twenty plots. The growth depends on the funding received from donations and future grants.
The garden opened May 15 and is located at the intersection of Franklin Avenue and Tenth Street West, 1006 Franklin Avenue. We need to thank Scheel’s SuperValu for donations of plants and potatoes for the garden.
If you have questions about the community gardens, please call 651-565-4568.
Plainview Public Library partners in a Rethink Your Drink Campaign.
"Assistance from the Statewide Health Improvement Partnership was instrumental in helping us to open up conversations and generate excitement about making healthy choices."
- Alice Henderson, Plainview Public Library Director
The Plainview Library undertook a Rethink Your Drink project in order to promote healthier choices for people using the library. The focus of our project centered on a new water fountain with an attached bottle filling station.
This served as a catalyst to encourage staff and patrons to choose water over other beverages. We have also begun stocking our fridge with infusing items (berries, citrus fruits, mint, basil etc.). Early response has been great, with each staff member reporting they are choosing to drink water at work more than they used to.
This conversation included public programming to support the Rethink Your Drink initiative. All of the preschool classes from the Plainview-Elgin-Millville School participated in a library tour and story time, which included a discussion about the importance of water in our lives and why it is important to choose water over sugary drinks.
We invited all area school-aged children to an afterschool event with registered dietician Julie Jacobs. Julie led the children through hands-on activities that explored making healthy beverage choices. Participants got to see first-hand what sugar does to our teeth, how to figure the number of sugar cubes in a drink, and how to make flavored waters that contain little or no sugar. All participants in this event received water bottles to fill at the library's new water bottle station. We will continue offering water bottles as prizes for our Summer Reading program as a way to keep conversations about healthy drinks happening through the summer.
In total, more than 140 children ranging in age from 3-14 participated in our Rethink Your Drink programming. This included public and private school students as well as homeschool students. To further our healthy choices theme, we are also offering a healthy snack station. Wescott Orchard donates up to 5 pounds of apples per week, which we put out for children on days when we have adequate supervision. Since we began this piece of the project on March 13, we have given out about 20 lbs. of apples which are being eaten with almost no waste. We will continue this project through the summer and then assess the need for adjustments and continuation.
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Healthy eating extended into our communities.
Seeking to serve people with the greatest inequities and disparities, Wabasha County SHIP is working with food shelves to make healthy foods more accessible.
U of M-Extension SNAP-Ed Annette Shepardson paved the way for partnerships with two Wabasha County food shelves when she instructed “Nudging at the Food Shelf,” which encourages consumers to make healthy food choices.
Supported by U of M-Extension and SHIP, Plainview Area Food Shelf and Wabasha-Kellogg Area Food Shelves are working toward making the healthy choice the easy choice by offering recipes in a bag, new signage and enhancing their communications efforts. Tools and practices are being put into place to make the shopping process go smoothly for customers and volunteers. The food shelves have also received healthy donation flyers to distribute to those making donations. The commitment of all parties involved is admirable.
Local champion is leading change in healthy food accessibility.
Wabasha Farmers Market Manager, Sara George's enthusiasm for making healthy food choices available to Wabasha County residents and to making processes easier across the state is commendable.
Farmers Market to Institution
Sara's motto is “keep on swimming.” Sara met with Minnesota Department of Agriculture on April 25, 2016, with a team of experts to break through barriers that prevent farmers markets from being able to aggregate and sell healthy foods to local businesses such as schools, hospitals and restaurants.
Following three and a half years of effort, meetings, emails and phone calls, Wabasha Farmers Market received its Whole Sale Food Handler License. Sara isn't just in this for her market, but hopes to pilot this project and become a mentor for others throughout the state. It's clear that Sara stays true to her motto.
Serving those with the greatest needs
Wabasha Farmers Market has been licensed to accept EBT for two seasons and has supported Lake City Farmers Market and Winona Farmers Market in obtaining EBT. In April 2016 Wabasha Farmers Market was approved for the WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program (FMNP). Sara has been working on obtaining this since 2013. Low-income woman, infants, children and seniors will be able to use their WIC benefits at the Wabasha Farmers Market!
EBT champions unite!
Sara George’s drive to serve Wabasha County in the best way resulted in her pulling people together in June 2016. The gathered group of includes individuals passionate about meeting the needs of Wabasha County residents to help grow accessibility to EBT. The meeting resulted in a kick-off of the local food access network with 14 members participating!