By Makiah Josephson, Slow Food USA Communications Coordinator
Food insecurity is not only a regional issue but a national one. According to the USDA, more than 34 million people in the United States are food insecure. There are people in every state struggling to afford food and continuously lack access to healthy options. Within the Slow Food community there is a chapter in Jackson, Wyoming called Slow Food in the Tetons taking on food insecurity and pushing towards change in their region to make farm-fresh food affordable for everyone. Slow Food in the Tetons is focused on building a regional food system where access to good, clean and fair food is available to all. Their chapter created the Local Food Discount Program that helps people in their community purchase farm and ranch food at affordable prices. The program offers several options for price reductions on locally and regionally grown food through their online marketplace, Slow Food Farm Stand and Winter People’s Market. Slow Food in the Tetons finds it encouraging to know that their local chapter has a connection with other Slow Food communities around the world who are working toward similar goals.
The Local Food Discount Program is a sliding-scale payment model for purchasing locally grown food. In 2022, Slow Food in the Tetons piloted the discount program at their summer farm stand. The farm stand runs two days a week for three months during the height of the growing season and offers a variety of produce and food items from local and regional farms. This year, they extended the Local Food Discount Program to also include their weekly online marketplace and monthly in-person Winter People’s Market. The program helps anyone who finds cost to be a barrier for purchasing locally grown food. When customers place an order through the online marketplace or purchase items directly from local food vendors at the Winter Market, they can select the discount that best meets their needs: 0%, 10%, 25% or 50%. They offer this program without any type of qualification process, and customers have the option to opt in or out of the discount options for each purchase they make. The program also benefits participating vendors, with many sharing they have had increased exposure from new customers and higher sales from the program.
The socio-economic profile of the Tetons community is unique in that it is a destination for some of the wealthiest Americans and has the nation’s highest per-capita income from assets, while working-class residents continue to suffer from the high cost of housing and resources. Slow Food in the Tetons feels fortunate to have a well resourced community to lend support to the work they do, but they also want to reach more of the population and ensure that high quality, nutritious seasonal and delicious local food is available to everyone. Many community members are just getting by each month and local food pantries have seen an increased demand in the last few years as the cost of rent, food and transportation have become more expensive. “The Local Food Discount Program has provided us with a larger reach. Throughout the 2022-23 pilot program, we are gaining new customers from a variety of socio-economic levels, and our local producers are building relationships with a larger portion of the Jackson community. It is thrilling to watch the local food network begin to widen, and we are hopeful that this expansion and these new connections will continue,” said Development Director Gretchen Cherry.
The discount program has shown that there is a demand for local food at an affordable price. The chapter stated that the long term objective of this program is to increase access to locally and regionally grown food for as many people as possible. The first year of the program already demonstrated that with a reduced cost barrier, there is increased demand for local food in their area. In the coming years, they believe that there is huge potential for the discount program to grow to meet the rising demand for local food. Their immediate next step is to survey program users and to take a deep dive into their data to best understand how the program is working. From there, they hope to begin the long task of expanding the reach of the program and securing a reliable funding source to allow it to continue for many years to come. “We would like to see more programs focusing on long-term solutions that treat root causes of problems in our food system rather than symptoms. For example, we’d like to see more programs that strengthen local food networks and provide increased food access and support for local producers and their surrounding communities. We are also encouraged by the growth of the food sovereignty movement and would like to see more support for any program that brings real choice back to anyone purchasing food,” shared Gretchen.