This week, the Food Research and Action Center released data that shows that rural and small town Americans are more likely to use SNAP benefits -- 16 percent of households nationally -- than those living in cities. In Indiana, 12.5 percent of rural and small town people benefit from food stamps.
Zooming into Greene County, Indiana -- population 32,211 -- 13.2 percent of the population uses SNAP. That’s the scene for our conversation today with Mallory Rickbeil, the Community Wellness Coordinator for Greene County. When she started the job in December 2015, she’d actually never been to this rural southern Indiana county.
There’s this story that I think about when I drive out to Greene County -- the country mouse, city mouse tale. I kind of use that narrative as a means of frustration, but after a while, you’re like no, this is ridiculous. We’re all mice. We’re more similar than we are different.
She develops environments in rural communities that support healthy eating and active living. In part, that means enticing SNAP users to spend money at the Linton Farmers' Market. Rickbeil partnered with organizers to grow the Market Bucks program, which turns up to $10 from SNAP, WIC and Senior Farmer's Market Nutrition Program accounts into $20. Shoppers can use this money to buy eligible foods from market vendors.
Rickbeil says the Market Bucks program has helped entice more vegetable farmers to set up tables at the Linton Farmer's Market. More money in the hands of shoppers has meant more money in farmers' pockets.
"Add another level to it," she says, "when the farmers are bringing a ton of produce to the market then we also see an uptick in gleaning, which means they're donating produce to the pantries."
In our podcast this week, she speaks with Leigh Bush of Indiana University's Food Institute.