Aww, SNAP!

Saturdays in the summer are for farmer’s markets. For me, it’s all about the tomatoes. Tomato season is my favorite season. Today’s visit was made even sweeter by the cool morning, our first since spring.

While there are much bigger farmer’s markets throughout D.C., ours is small, but close. It has no more than twelve to fourteen stalls. The two biggest stalls carry all of the vegetables. Other smaller stalls carry pastries and bread, meat and eggs, and some crafts as well. New this year is a bagel vendor that always has a line a mile long no matter what time you show up.

I know from previous experience that the market doesn’t open until 9 a.m. Last year I arrived an hour early. I didn’t really understand turning away someone who had cash in their hand, when they were already set up, but I came back later nonetheless. Today, I happened to hit it fifteen minutes early and there was already a buzz.

The aisle between the stalls was crowded with people standing, and milling about, waiting for everything to open. There was a long line for the SNAP tent. The Supplemental Nutritious Assistance Program (SNAP) provides allowances to people who qualify, to help them buy nutritious food items, for them and their households.

The program issues a debit card with a fixed amount allotted to the card, based on each person’s needs. At the farmer’s markets, the SNAP tent hands out white vouchers worth $5 each that people can use to buy the vegetables and other foods. It’s hard not to notice that most of the people waiting in line are elderly or disabled.

Let that truth sink in for a bit.

No stall can open for business, nor SNAP, until they officially “ring the bell” at 9 a.m. This was the first time I was around to witness the “opening” bell. The farmer’s market was like a mini stock market right there in the street (our own little Wall Street).

Some people who were waiting for the market to open weren’t as patient. They filled their bags and were lined up at the registers waiting to be rung up right at 9 a.m. on the dot. Besides the guy holding the bell and watching the clock, another girl was policing the stalls. She took the impatient women’s bags and emptied them back out. They would have to start over after the bell.

Another older gentleman who couldn’t wait pulled back the sheets covering some of the vegetable stands, filling his arms as much as he could. The girl, clucking vehemently, took the vegetables from him, recovering the bins as she went.

Usually I arrive at the market between 10 or 11 a.m. By then, all the coupons have been distributed, and you had better watch out. Waving their coupons in the air, everyone is on a mission, and they will cut you off and run you over to get where they’re going.

If it sounds like I’m complaining or making fun of them, I’m not. I love seeing all of the different people at the farmer’s market, especially the elderly and the disabled.

All neighbors, we’re like a little hodgepodge of mismatched socks.

SNAP is a great program. It provides a lot of people the ability to buy nutritious food and in their own neighborhood. I love supporting the farmers, too. They show up every weekend, making accessible all the beautiful food they grow and care for, day in and day out, rain or shine.

It’s a lot of hard, back breaking work.

There is nothing better than walking down the street to buy fresh eggs and tomatoes and going straight home to cook a delicious breakfast. After my first long run this morning since winter, it has made for a pretty perfect day, all before 10 a.m.

SNAP, just like that!

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