It’s 10 am on a Tuesday at the Crescent City Farmers Market and Ms Betty Eby, program coordinator for Arthur Monday Senior Center in Old Algiers is on the phone with Ms Ethel Mackie, program coordinator at Central City Senior Center trying to find out how much longer it will be before the Central City seniors arrive at market. The two centers had requested to participate in the same Meet Me @ the Market visit about a month ago and Ms Eby was getting anxious to see her friends from Central City.
Around her at the market, Arthur Monday senior citizens are seated under the tent reserved for their center’s market visit nibbling on breakfast snacks of bread, creole cream cheese and Double Apple Cider Butter. Many of them are also shopping – walking slowly around the market looking for the best deals on where to spend their Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) coupons – free $20 worth of coupons from the USDA and Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry to purchase fresh produce at farmers markets. Seniors arrive back at the Meet Me @ the Market tent with bags overflowing with collards, mustard greens, creole tomatoes, eggplant, bell peppers, sweet potatoes, butter beans, okra, and cucumbers. The goal for the market visit – to spend all their SFMNP vouchers and receive their Conditional Benefit Transfer (CBT) - an additional $20 in Crescent City Farmers Market crescents to spend on anything at the market.
These market visits, which began in early October, are the final step for seniors to become part of the CBT Club – a conditional cash transfer program that rewards matching SFMNP funds to seniors that complete a set of conditions. The first condition - play Farmers Market Bingo at their senior center – the game provides fun senior nutrition education, inform seniors of different purchasing options at the market and talk about seasonal market items. The second condition – visit the Crescent City Farmers Market for a Meet Me @ the Market visit. The third condition – spend all their SFMNP coupons before Nov 30th. If these conditions are fulfilled, the Crescent City Farmers Market will award the SFMNP senior with extra CBT crescents!
This program has empowered Arthur Monday seniors (and many more around New Orleans) to experience the market in different ways. First they shop with their FMNP coupons – looking for the certified produce vendors with yellow signs that signify they accept FMNP coupons. Once they spend their FMNP coupons, seniors approach the Crescent City Farmers Market Welcome Tent to exchange their empty booklet for 4 crescents - $20 in market money. When they loop around the market again with their crescents their shopping approach is different. With $20 to spend at any vendors’ stand seniors head for items they weren’t able to buy before – fresh gulf shrimp, fish fillets, fruit juices and popsicles, Satsuma trees, pralines, bread, milk and creole cream cheese. The positive and appreciative response from seniors receiving CBT crescents is heartwarming. CBT allows them to purchase good local food, interact with a variety of Crescent City Farmers Market vendors and involve themselves in the market as shoppers - not just FMNP recipients.
For those seniors who didn’t receive FMNP coupons this 2008 season, the Crescent City Farmers Market is collecting names to send to the Council on Aging for the 2009 FMNP wait list. Contact Callie Rubbins-Breen, firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (504) 861.4488.
Market Umbrella is an independent nonprofit 501(c)(3), based in New Orleans, whose mission is to cultivate the field of public markets for public good. Market Umbrella has operated the Crescent City Farmers Markets (CCFM) since 1995.
The Crescent City Farmers Market operates weekly year-round in four New Orleans neighborhoods. The CCFM hosts nearly 80 local small farmers, fishers and food producers, and more than 100,000 shoppers annually.