By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
LINCOLN PARK – The city’s farmers market, with its tempting harvest of garden-fresh produce, provided an opportunity for U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-12th District) to highlight the importance of federal nutrition programs.
Dingell, along with Joel Berg, the CEO of Hunger Free America, visited the Lincoln Park Farmers Market, at the southwest corner of Southfield Road and Fort Street, on Aug. 15 to draw attention to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Women and Infant Children assistance, and pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer for families with school-age children.
The farmers market participates in the Double Up Food Buck Program, which doubles Bridge Card recipients’ funds for fresh fruit and vegetables at farmers markets and grocery stores throughout Michigan.
Berg, who is based out of New York City, said the program helps dramatically expand the government’s safety net.
“As I have been traveling around the country on a national tour, I have found that programs like pandemic EBT and the boost in SNAP really have been lifesaving, as well as the extra aid provided through places like Fish and Loaves,” he said.
Dingell said that in Michigan, one in five people are food-insecure and go to bed hungry.
“The fact of the matter is, 42 million Americans are hungry every day, and I went to an after-school program just before we got shut in, and a little boy looked so sad and unhappy. I said to him, ‘You’re just tired. You just want to go home and have dinner with your parents, right?’ and he said, ‘No, we don’t eat at home. We don’t have food.’ That has stayed with me, and the pandemic has made it worse.”
Dingell said farmers markets help provide access to good, healthy food.
“In this country, I don’t want to think of a child going to bed hungry, and I want to make sure we take care of them,” she said.
City Councilwoman Maureen Tobin said she has been going to the city’s farmers market for years.
“I was on my way here today because I need green peppers for fajitas, and I can get fresh ones here,” she said. “You can’t get better than that.”
Berg emphasized that hunger is still a systemic issue throughout the country, and the federal safety net is the only thing that has prevented a massive hunger crisis.
Mary Hollens, executive director of Fish and Loaves Community Food Pantry, and director of food strategy for Wayne Metro Community Action Agency, said her presence at the farmers market is to support fresh produce and more access to food for hungry Americans, particularly Downriver.
Maha Freij, executive director of ACCESS, said her agency provides multiple human services that help families with basic needs.
“I am so thankful for Congresswoman Debbie Dingell for shedding light on a very, very important problem that is existing in this country,” she said. “People don’t think that exists, because we ‘lead the world,’ as they like to say, but there are so many kids and families who go to bed very hungry every day, and the only way some of these kids can eat is through the free lunch that they have in school.”
Freij said a solution needs to be found for food insecurity.
“I am going to be advocating for policies that will put serious solutions to these problems,” she said.