Manager, Wabasha Farmers Market. Vice President, Minnesota Farmers Market Association
For Sara George, 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 that to spread the word about using SNAP/EBT at the farmers market.
“Collaboration is Powerful. Team Up!”
What started as a single email with the subject line “EBT Champions Unite” eventually sparked the launch of the Wabasha County Food Access Network. Convening people from numerous organizations within the community, members of the network learned to share resources, identify obstacles to healthy food access, and work together to implement solutions.
Specifically, the Wabasha County Food Access Network has worked hard to identify issues that seniors face when accessing healthy food. A few solutions they have found include sharing flyers in the grocery store bags on Senior day about SNAP/EBT benefits and having a table out front to discuss the benefits. Additionally, they have conducted a Cooking Matters Class at a low-income apartment facility to share cooking tips and tricks for eating healthy on a budget, have created healthier options at food shelves, and have shared resources with Social Services. However, as a network, they have discussed how social stigma can stand in the way for many individuals who could benefit from using SNAP/EBT by purchasing more fresh fruits and vegetables. Together, they are not working on identifying where this stigma comes from and how they can work to eliminate it in their community.
“I didn’t realize how much 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 plus the stigma associated with using WIC was very sad and hard to overcome. This was a challenge for my own family and I wanted to change that.” – Sara George
Inspiring New Healthy Food Access Champions
Sara George offers this advice to anyone who wants to work on issues related to healthy food access but doesn’t know where to start: “odds are you are in this for a reason that is personal. Perhaps you lost a job and found yourself in an unsecure situation, a health issue arose, perhaps you were once a hungry child. Share your story. There are so many families that are food insecure, but the stigma surrounding food is real. The more we can share our own stories with others, the more we can reduce that stigma surrounding food support. Your story puts faces on the insecurities and makes you go from being a statistic to being a human with a real need. It creates empathy and has the ability to change the people you are talking to. Please, share your story!”
It would be an understatement to say that Sara George brings a unique perspective to healthy food access work. Sara is the owner of D&S Gardens (a small farm in Pepin, WI) the manager of the Wabasha Farmers Market, Vice President of the Minnesota Farmers Market Association, an employee of Harbor View Cafe (where they source as much locally grown produce as possible!), a consultant for Renewing the Countryside, and a trainer for the Food Safety Modernization Act ruling that is coming into effect.