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Grow the Good extends its reach with community support

Building awareness around the Grow the Good initiative in the Atlanta community 

The American Heart Association (AHA) of metro Atlanta and Wholesome Wave Georgia (WWG) have teamed up with community organizations in the city of Atlanta to create awareness around the Grow the Good initiative, a grassroots campaign promoting Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) incentive programs to increase access to fresh, healthy, locally grown food. 

Collaborating with agencies like Community Farmers Market, Fresh MARTA markets at the Hamilton E. Holmes and Bankhead stations as well as Unearthing Farm and Market, Grow the Good Produce Giveaways were held May 4 and May 21. Attendees were given information and resources around eating and shopping with health in mind, along with fresh locally grown produce.

Community Farmers Market, a Bernard J. Tyson Impact Fund recipient, partners with MARTA, to operate permanent produce stands at MARTA stations located within food insecure neighborhoods. Since launching in 2015, the MARTA Market has become a vital community resource, providing over 250,000 pounds of fresh food to more than 70,000 visitors. 

“Thanks to Wholesome Wave Georgia’s Fresh for Less program, we have been doubling SNAP/EBT dollars since our very first season,” said Lauren Wood, Program Director for Fresh MARTA Market. “SNAP/EBT accounts for more than a third of our total sales, so participating in the Grow the Good initiative aligned perfectly with our goal of increasing access to fresh food. We are grateful to have organizations such as WWG and AHA as comrades in this work and look forward to continuing to work together to help build sustainable, equitable food systems in the metro area and beyond.”

At Unearthing Farm and Market, there were food demonstration stations to showcase healthy recipes that could be created with the fresh produce that was distributed. 

Unearthing Farm and Market is a nonprofit initiative working to provide equitable access to fresh, locally grown produce in the Edgewood and Kirkwood neighborhoods. 

“The Grow the Good initiative helps raise awareness of the resources our neighbors can access at Unearthing Farm. By tapping into SNAP/EBT, Georgia Fresh for Less, and the flexible pay options at Unearthing, we hope to remove some of the barriers that prevent our community from accessing food and resources that benefit their health,” said Heather Franklin, Farm Outreach Coordinator for Unearthing Farm and Market. “The event Grow the Good hosted helped build relationships with community members who weren’t aware we were in their own neighborhood. We hope to continue building relationships with our neighbors being partners in our community’s health.”

In Georgia, the median income of households on SNAP is $19,968 compared to a $65,529 median income of households that are not on SNAP1. In these unprecedented times, programs like Grow the Good are more important than ever. Grow the Good enables SNAP/EBT recipients to purchase twice as many locally grown fruits and vegetables with their SNAP/EBT dollars. 

“Funding for Grow the Good will offer a multitude of benefits to Atlantans: families will have an opportunity to purchase and eat more healthy food options, local farmers gain new customers and make more money, more food dollars stay in Atlanta, boosting local economies,” said Jasmine Hooper, Community Advocacy Director for the American Heart Association. 

Grow the Good has been working with the Wholesome Wave Georgia Community Healthy Food Access Coalition and an advisory board to seek the allocation of funding through the city of Atlanta since July 2021. 

“There are almost 500,000 people in the City of Atlanta and about 50,000 of residents don’t live close to a food store.  Nutrition security is important and achievable with programs like Grow the Good,” said Debra Kibbe, Senior Research Associate at Georgia Health Policy Center. Kibbe serves on the Grow the Good advisory board.Having convenient access to healthy foods at the Marta Markets is good for families and may help create a healthy, vibrant and sustainable community.”

I’ve enjoyed my time working with Grow the Good and being able to hand out fresh produce at the MARTA station where I feel like I am actually helping make fresh food important for my community,” said Douglas Barnes, a Wholesome Wave Georgia Community Healthy Food Access Coalition member. “We need more people to be in the community to make sure initiatives like Grow the Good come to fruition.”

The AHA and WWG will continue its awareness campaign to gain momentum and assess impact before introducing this initiative in other regions across the state of Georgia. 

For more information and ways to get involved, visit yourethecure.org/growthegoodatl.

(1) United States Department of Agriculture; https://fns-prod.azureedge.us/sites/default/files/resource-files/Georgia_5.pdf
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