Food for the holidays: SNAP develops special produce program for December and the New Year

HAWI — Food security has been improving this year in North and West Hawaii Island.

Over 3,000 new households have increased their access to food by enrolling in the Supplemental Nutrition and Benefits program (SNAP) — up to 8,000 homes from 5,000 at the beginning of the 2018. The USDA Farm Bill authorizes these food access funds to help ensure improved nutrition for low income households and to help Hawaii’s local farmers sell more locally grown fruits and vegetables to more families on the island.

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This year, more than $50,000 in food benefits and health and wellness programs have been offered through the Same Canoe program. New access points will be coming in the New Year.

The One Island Sustainable Living nonprofit that operates Same Canoe was awarded funding to increase local produce sales to SNAP households through 2020. For the holiday season, SNAP users who register with Same Canoe can receive $30 in bonus produce coupons for holiday meals by enrolling at a Same Canoe booth on one-time special offer days at local grocers. The $30 in bonus coupons are available to every already-enrolled Same Canoe participant as well.

The ongoing Same Canoe program can provide $160 in produce coupons and up to $320 for participants who attend informative, healthy, lifestyle classes offered in conjunction with area health and wellness programs.

“On an island, we really are ‘all in the same canoe’ when it comes to solving our remote location’s food access challenges,” noted Lisa DeSantis, an AmeriCorps member from New Jersey who serves North Hawaii communities through the Same Canoe Project and at the EBT booths in Hamakua and Waimea.

“We serve low-income households — single individuals, couples and homes with keiki and kupuna – and all ages benefit from gaining better food choices thanks to the coupons we are distributing,” explained Rayna Rasmussen, a west side AmeriCorps member from Georgia who also operates the EBT booth at the Keauhou Farmers Market.

“Every week we hear about health management success stories our SNAP participants are experiencing by increasing their intake of fresh local produce. And our free coupons bring new customers to more than 50 local, small farms every month. It’s a great match of buyers and local farmers,” commented Michael Leal, a third AmeriCorps member from Texas who brings a culinary arts degree experience to the project.

Prior to their service with AmeriCorps, all three of the lead Same Canoe crew have worked on organic farms, instilling a commitment to fostering positive food system change. Their work in Hawaii is a boots-on-the-ground opportunity to make a difference for the project’s 78 food and health stakeholders, and more than 3,000 residents using SNAP EBT.

Where to enroll

SNAP households can enroll in Same Canoe this month and receive the additional $30 in bonus produce coupons, as can already enrolled members, at special pre-holiday event days at local grocery stores including ChoiceMart in South Kona from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. this Friday and Takata Store in Kohala from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. the same day; between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Saturday at Island Naturals in Kona; and 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. the same day at Kamuela Farmers Market at Pukalani Stables in Waimea. The $30 in bonus coupons are only available on these dates at those locations.

During December, SNAP households can begin enrollment through area health clinics by asking for the Veggie RX Same Canoe program at Mango Medical in Waimea and Hamakua-Kohala Clinic in Kapaau. In West Hawaii, clinic options are Island Heart Care and the West Hawaii Community Health Center at four different locations.

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The Fresh Feast CSA is also providing produce through Same Canoe with pick-ups at multiple North and West Hawaii locations.

Info: Learn more about Same Canoe SNAP services and education program at www.oneisland.org.

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