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Posts Tagged ‘Alachua’

Departmental Spotlight – EBT

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Florida Organic Growers for two years has run a booth providing SNAP benefit -commonly, Food Stamp- transfers at various farmers’ markets in Alachua County. In that time, the booth’s operational costs have been covered by various municipal grants; however, as municipal budgets tighten and the program matures, it is incumbent upon us to find a new way to fund the booth if it is to remain a part of the area farmers’ markets.

The Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program is an aid program administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Originally the Food Stamp Program, started in the late 1930s as a response to widespread unemployment and massive food surpluses that existed during the height of the depression. Having ended in 1943, the program was reauthorized in 1959 with bipartisan support. During the incoming Kennedy Administration it was made permanent so as to make available “… to all needy families a greater variety and quantity of food out of our agricultural abundance.” [exec.ord. 10914]

In the fifty-three years since, the program has had regular revisions in step with political, ideological, and technological changes. One such technological change was a move in the late nineties to phase out the old green-and-brown stamps system in favor of an EBT (Electronic Benefit Transfer) card to be used like a credit or debit card. This was done to make the system more consistent, more accountable, and less susceptible to fraud. With the move to an electronic payment system however, the retail food market became fragmented; those consumers receiving SNAP benefits were effectively shut out from any part of the market unable to handle electronic transactions. Two such parts of the excluded market are small and medium farmers who sell direct to the consumer.

Directly selling to consumers remains a vital part of many farmers’ income. While most farm output is irrevocably tied up in larger grocery vendor systems, farmers often maintain an amount of excess or specialty crops that would otherwise go unsold. Many farmers elect to take part in regional farmers’ markets as a way to sell those products – often at significant a discount relative to grocery stores. Often, these Markets are located close to populations that are underserved by most of the retail food market. Indeed, in Alachua County, the farmers’ markets FOG maintains an EBT booth at border regions the USDA has labeled as being without basic access to large grocery stores or similar outlets.

 

GIFT Gardens

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The Gainesville Initiative for Tasty Gardens or GIFT Gardens builds raised bed vegetable gardens and edible landscaping for low-income families and institutions that support them. By providing physical and education resources GIFT Gardens aims to increase food production in Alachua County, to increase self-sufficiency of community residents and to beautify neighborhoods. To date there are GIFT Gardens at 257 locations across Alachua County, including 17 schools, 7 churches and 17 community centers.

Free GIFT Gardens

Residents of Alachua County with low incomes and the institutions that serve those residents are eligible to apply for a free GIFT Garden, helping them become more self-sufficient and increasing their ability to provide for some of their own food needs.

Participants receive up to 3 raised beds, fertile soil, seeds, vegetable starts, a GIFT Gardens Growing Guide and ongoing assistance free of charge. Organizations can receive up to 10 raised beds. After the installation by FOG staff and volunteers, participants plan and plant their gardens, allowing them to take ownership of the GIFT Garden and learn how to start, take care and maintain a vegetable garden plot. All GIFT Garden recipients also receive a free year long membership to Grow Gainesville.

To apply, submit an application form linked below. For more information contact Travis Mitchell at Travis@foginfo.org.

 

APPLICATION FORMS:
Organization Application

For churches, schools, community gardens or other institutions and organizations.

Individual Application
If you rent, your landlord will also have to sign off on the GIFT Garden by completing the Landlord Agreement (required for renters).

 

RESOURCES
GIFT Gardens Growing Guide

IFAS Vegetable Gardening Guide

 

Fundraising GIFT Gardens

Individuals can also purchase a GIFT Garden to grow healthy food nearly all year long if they do not meet income eligibility requirements for a free GIFT Garden. The purchase of a GIFT Garden goes helps support the gifting of free gardens for low-income Alachua County residents, so part of the cost is tax deductible. GIFT Gardens make great gifts too, or donate a GIFT Garden in your name or someone else’s name to a low-income person, and receive the reward of knowing your gift has helped someone provide food for themselves and their family. GIFT Gardens can be adapted to your physical needs as well, i.e. increasing the height to decrease need for bending down. A standard 8 x 4 x 1 ft garden will cost approximately $200 depending on your needs and location. We can also install in ground gardens and additional edible landscaping. Prior to installation you will be contacted to schedule an appointment for a site visit. This site visit will be considered a consultation and we ask for $25 donation per site visit which will be added to your total. During the site visit one of our gardening experts will help you decide what kind of organic garden best fits your needs, where it should be located and to go over any other details necessary to insure you have a successful garden. After the visit you will be notified of the price based on what you and the coordinator have agreed to. The price will include the cost of the gardens plus a minimum $100 donation to Florida Organic Growers to go toward the GIFT Garden program. Should you decide to continue, a check will be requested in full, made payable and sent to the name and address listed above. The check will be deposited only after your gardens have been installed.

For more information contact Travis Mitchell at Travis@foginfo.org or send in the application form below and someone will contact you promptly to arrange for a site visit.

 

APPLICATION FORMS
Fundraising Garden Application
Landlord Agreement (required for renters)

 

RESOURCES
GIFT Gardens Growing Guide
IFAS Vegetable Gardening Guide

 

Garden Consultations

Struggling with your vegetable garden? Donate to FOG and receive a free consultation!

With a minimum donation of $75 receive a vegetable garden consultation from our Community Food Project Coordinator and resident gardener Travis Mitchell. Travis has worked for with the Gainesville Initiative for Tasty Gardens for the past three years and has built over 90 gardens across Alachua County. Each consultation will be roughly one hour in length, an cover a variety of organic gardening techniques including best watering and fertilizing practices, how to compost, weed prevention techniques and pest management. Upon request seasonal plants and seeds can also be included with consultation along with minor soil amendment and assistance with planting. Contact Travis Mitchell at Travis@foginfo.org or call 352-377-6345 for more information.

 

GIFT GARDENS AT ALACHUA COUNTY ORGANIZATIONS/INSTITUTIONS
Meridian
Villages at Forest Green
Turkey Creek Forest
Twinlakes Fishing and Camping
ARC of Alachua County
Coworkers, Inc.
Comprehensive Community Services, Inc.
Boys & Girls Club of Alachua County, Woodland Park
Service Options Unltd Inc.
Shands at Vista Child and Adolescent Unit
Interface Youth Program – CDS
YMCA Camp McConnell
Greens Group Home
Sisters Helping Sisters in Need
MISA @ Veterans Hospital
North FL/South GA Veterens Health System (VA Domicilliary)
Gainesville Harvest
Gainesville Job Corps
Rose Garden
S.E.T. on Success, LLC
Parklands Rehabilitation and Nursing Center
A Future and a Hope
Acorn Clinic
Peacock Houses
Parkview Baptist Church
Oak Ridge Appartment Complex
Vocational Industries
Addison’s Daycare
Krishna House
Palm Garden
Citizens Co-op Community Garden
Arbor House, Inc.
City of Gainesville Thelma Boltin Center
Alachua County Downtown Farmers Garden at Alachua County Administration Building
GIFT GARDENS AT ALACHUA COUNTY SCHOOLS
Reichert House Youth Academy
Lake Forest Elementary
Eastside High School
Bell Nursery School
Einstein Montessori School
Expressions Learning Academy
Horizons Center Alternative School
Idylwild Elementary
Littlewood Elementary
Metcalfe Elementary
Morning Meadow Preschool
Sidney Lanier
Baby Gator Child Development and Research Center at UF
Lincoln Middle School
Howard Bishop Middle School
One Room School House
Hoggetowne Middle School
Stephen Foster Elementary

 

The program is made possible by grants from Alachua County, City of Gainesville, Satchel’s Pizza and Yes to Carrots, Inc.

 

If you would like to get involved please call 352.377.6355 or email Travis Mitchell at Travis@foginfo.org.