White E awards Sitka Local Foods Network 2022 grant to match SNAP/WIC produce sales

Sitka White Elephant Shop volunteers Carole Knuth, left, and Sue Fleming, right, present Sitka Local Foods Network board president Charles Bingham with a grant check to match SNAP/WIC produce sales at the Sitka Farmers Market this summer.

The Sitka White Elephant Shop (aka, the White E thrift shop) awarded the Sitka Local Foods Network with a $1,000 grant during its 2022 grant cycle. In 2018, the White E awarded the Sitka Local Foods Network $1,000. The amount was increased to $1,500 in 2019 and 2020, and we didn’t apply for a grant in 2021 because of the pandemic.

The grant will be used to provide matching funds for SNAP and WIC beneficiaries who purchase produce at the Sitka Farmers Market and other events where the SLFN sells produce. The Sitka Local Foods Network began providing SNAP matching dollars for the first $20 of produce purchases at the markets several years ago when there was a state grant, but in 2017 those state grant funds ran out and we used our Sitka Local Foods Network general fund to match the produce purchases.

The White E grants, starting in 2018, have helped us continue the matching program. We also started matching the $5 WIC farmers market produce coupons in 2017, using our general fund (in 2019, we were the only farmers market in the state authorized to match WIC coupons). If the senior farmers market coupons are finally distributed in Southeast Alaska in 2022, our intention is to match those as well.

We grow most of the produce sold at the Sitka Farmers Market locally at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden, and our satellite gardens around town. St. Peter’s Fellowship holds a Certified Naturally Grown designation, which means we follow healthy and sustainable practices while growing our produce, including limited use of chemical fertilizers. The Sitka Farmers Market also is on the Certified Naturally Grown’s Guide To Exceptional Markets.

“Our mission is to increase the amount of locally produced and harvested food in the diets of Southeast Alaskans, but buying local produce can be difficult for people on food assistance programs,” Sitka Local Foods Network board president Charles Bingham said. “Local produce can be fresher and tastier than barged-in produce from the Lower 48, and it doesn’t lose its nutritional value during transit. Our matching funds help get more healthy local produce into the diets of lower-income residents of Sitka. A lot of people don’t realize how much income inequality there is in Sitka, and according to the Sitka Community Food Assessment Indicators Report released in 2014, there were 1,410 people and 766 families receiving SNAP benefits in Sitka during 2013. That’s about one out of six Sitka residents who need extra access to this healthy local produce.”

The White E made several grants during the 2022 grant cycle, but a complete list wasn’t available. The Sitka Local Foods Network thanks the White E for its support. The White E noted that the amount of money it’s been able to donate to local nonprofits has decreased in recent years, starting even before the pandemic hit and closed the store for several months. The White E is encouraging people to donate quality used clothes, toys, and other items to sell so it can raise the amount of contributions it makes to local nonprofits again next year.