Matching Dollars1

A few years back, FRESHFARM Markets changed my life. Up until then, I was what I like to call a lazy healthy eater. I didnt really care to know what went into my food and I mostly trusted marketing executives when they labeled something as natural or healthy. (Go ahead laugh. Its ok.) I ate a lot of processed foods labeled as low-fat or whole grain. My fruits and vegetables were rarely in season.

Through all this, Michael Pollans The Omnivores Dilemma sat patiently on my bookshelf. Like any non-believer, I kept telling myself Im just not ready yet. Until one day, I was. I opened the book. I devoured it. I read other books. And being that I like challenges, I decided I would try to do more of my shopping at a farmers market. I was aware the FRESHFARM Markets farmers markets existed, but Id only dropped in out of novelty in the past. It was time to get serious.

FRESHFARM Markets made it easy for me to make changes. Each of the markets I frequented were filled with gorgeous produce, healthy meats and fresh baked goods. The farmers were friendly and helpful. Before I knew it, my entire diet had changed, and I felt fabulous. As an added bonus, I began to get to know the staff at FRESHFARM Markets and started doing occasional chef demos and volunteered for various projects. I learned that the organization goes way beyond just snazzy farm stands and tasty food samples.

Of their many educational programs, the program closest to my heart is the Matching Dollars program . Because my work involves teaching nutritional cooking classes to low-income clients, I realize that procuring affordable fresh produce is not always within reach. FRESHFARM Markets recognizes this too and created the Matching Dollars program to address it. Because of this incentive, SNAP (Food Stamps), WIC (Women, Infant and Children) and SFMNP (Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program) recipients shopping at six of the FRESHFARM Markets can have their governmental funds matched to enable them to double the amount of money they have to spend on seasonal fruits and vegetables.

Although I have supported the program personally in previous years, I can only give so much. In 2012, I struggled to think of a way I could give this program an added boost. Finally, I thought, why not combine a yearly celebration with a fundraising opportunity? This February, I will mark another birthday by gathering with friends at a local restaurant. In lieu of any gifts or contributions towards dinner, I will be collecting donations for the FRESHFARM Matching Dollars program. Even if each of the 50 or so guests only gives $20 each, well raise $1,000 for the program by the end of the night.

I hope basing my diet on the abundant, local produce available at the FRESHFARM Markets farmers markets gives me many more vibrantly healthy birthdays to celebrate. And I cant think of any better way to mark another year than by sharing with others the gift of nourishing food, as well. Thank you, FRESHFARM Markets!

Using my birthday as a creative way to raise money is just one way to give back. Other ways to get involved include making a donation, becoming a sponsor and more.

Melissa Jones, FRESHFARM Markets volunteer
Melissa is a food educator focused on teaching people how to incorporate more fresh, delicious, local produce into their diets. She works with local non-profits and health centers to create and demonstrate recipes that are fruit and vegetable-based and simple to prepare. Melissa hopes the merger of her Johnson and Wales culinary degree and masters in nutrition education produces dishes that keep people happy and healthy for years to come. Melissas recipes and more can be found here.

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