Farm Beat: Riverbank offers healthy food for low-income people

Two items this week on efforts toward healthy eating: One is about the Riverbank Certified Farmers Market. The other involves dairy farmers and the NFL.

First up, the market was chosen for a federal program that matches the money spent by low-income people at these venues.

The benefits come through the debit-type cards that people use for grocery shopping under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps.

If someone buys, for example, $10 worth of tomatoes and peppers from a farmer, he or she gets tokens in an equal amount that can go to other purchases. The market management evens things out with the vendors later.

“This just doubles the money for them, to be able to eat nutritiously,” market manager Garnette Martin said Thursday.

SNAP recipients throughout California can take part if they happen to be in Riverbank for the market, which will launch its 2015 season May 27. The limit on how much someone can spend has not yet been set.

Farmers markets in Riverbank, Fresno and Visalia are covered by a two-year grant of $3.7 million to the Ecology Center in Berkeley. It was part of $31.5 million in grants announced this week by the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive program at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Children in “food-insecure” families are 90 percent more likely to be in fair or poor health, said Xavier Morales, executive director of the Latino Coalition for a Healthy California, in a news release. The farmers market program “helps families with lower incomes access fruits and vegetables that may have previously been perceived to be too expensive.”

The Riverbank market will run from 5 to 8 p.m. Wednesdays from May 27 to Sept. 2 at the park next to the community center, 3600 Santa Fe St. It will feature live music every week and family movies in June and July.

The partners will provide grants of up to $4,000 to support student wellness efforts at K-12 schools, a total of up to $200,000.

The California Milk Advisory Board, which operates out of Modesto and South San Francisco, launched the campaign last year with the San Francisco 49ers. The Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers have since come on board.

The campaign is called Fuel Up to Play 60. It encourages students to get at least 60 minutes of exercise a day and to eat whole grains, fruits, vegetables, low-fat and nonfat dairy products, and other nutritious fare.

“We plan to make an even bigger impact in schools this year by tapping into the excitement of the NFL to get students and schools motivated to make sustainable changes,” said Jennifer Giambroni, director of communications at the milk board, in a news release.

Raiders quarterback Derek Carr and Chargers defensive end Kendall Reyes helped unveil the 2015 program at the World Ag Expo in Tulare.

The campaign has a “playbook” of ideas for wellness efforts, such as serving healthy breakfasts or challenging students to walk, jog or run 100 miles over a school year. Last year’s grants totaled $100,000.

Fuel Up to Play 60 was founded in 2009 by the National Dairy Council and the National Football League, in cooperation with the USDA.

More information is at www.fueluptoplay60.com.

Have an idea for the Farm Beat? Contact John Holland at jholland@modbee.com or (209) 578-2385.