MOUNT VERNON — Knox County’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP Ed) representative updated Knox County Commissioners Tuesday about what works best for the program — outreach, hands-on healthy cooking classes and demonstrations, and partnerships with other agencies.
Tanner Cooper-Risser, the county’s only SNAP Ed program assistant, working through the Ohio State University Extension, said surveys with schools and non-profits organizations such as The Main Place Recovery Center, Opportunity Knox, Head Start and senior centers show that direct nutrition education has a positive impact on youths and adults alike. He produced documents for the commissioners, with statistics showing that in Fiscal Year 2018, 75 percent of adults and teens — and 88 percent of children educated with MyPlate, which is healthy eating habits emphasizing five different food groups — made healthy food choices. And, 87 percent of adults/teens and 91 percent of children reported drinking water instead of sugar-sweetened drinks. In addition, adults and children each reported a high rate of physical activity for at least 30 minutes most days of the week.
“One of the things I personally like about the program is, most of the time, I try to incorporate recipes they get to try,” Cooper-Risser said. “As adults, we get to make them together. It’s great for them to know what healthy eating is. If you don’t see how to make the food — if you don’t try the food — chances are you’re not going to do it.”
Cooper-Risser was joined during his Tuesday presentation by Michelle Duffy, the new coordinator of the Mount Vernon Farmers Market, which provides fresh locally grown produce and other foods each May through October Saturdays at Mount Vernon’s Public Square. They discussed the benefits of a matching program started last year called Produce Perks, which is only available through Farmers Markets. When participants use their SNAP Ed EBT(electronic transfer benefit) cards at the Farmers Market — which she said are formerly known as food stamp and welfare cards — they receive a token based on amount spent. So, for instance, if they wish to spend $20 on fruits, vegetables, eggs and meats, they would receive a colored token with Produce Perks matching the amount spent.
Produce Perks has been made available through a federal grant, Duffy said, and about 12 to 15 people per week took advantage of the program. Commissioner Bill Pursel said those eligible would benefit even more by having as much informational material as possible about Produce Perks.
Duffy produced a 2018 Mount Vernon Farmers Market Incentives Report each month the market was open, May to October. What is redeemed by SNAP Ed customers through Produce Perk matching amounts depends on what fruits and vegetables were available any given week, she said. There was a “snafu” that occurred with the way the company that processed Produce Perks handled its work last summer, but the program should continue, she said. There was also a successful senior voucher program for those 60 and over, who received $5 coupons. The coupons were available each week. She said there were instances where those who showed up “might not have been the age they showed on their IDs.”
“The whole idea is to make those fresh fruits and vegetables accessible to everybody,” she said, adding that there are anywhere from 25 to about 30 Farmers Market vendors who sell fresh food at Public Square. Duffy added that she “would love to see a farm-to-table event come to fruition this year.”
Cooper-Risser said he visits summer food programs at Riverside Park and Hiawatha Water Park in Mount Vernon at least once a week to offer children cooking demonstrations and fun activities. He tries to base demonstrations off the foods children receive that day. SNAP Ed is funded by the federal Farm Bill, he offered.
Most elementary schools in Mount Vernon qualify for free and reduced lunches due to more than 50 percent of children’s families being income-eligible. Fourteen percent of county residents suffer from food insecurity, Cooper-Risser said.
In an article referring to the senior voucher program at the Mount Vernon Farmers Market in Wednesday’s edition, it should have said Michelle Duffy said there were instances where seniors “might not have looked the age they showed on their IDs.”
Seniors 60 and over are able to receive coupons each week to purchase produce at the market and must show ID in order to receive the coupon.
The article should also have stated there are usually 25 to 30 vendors overall, not just those selling produce, who attend the market each week out of 44 who were registered.
The News regrets the errors.