Dear Governor Parnell,
My name is Jeremia Schrock and I’m the Communications Coordinator for the Downtown Association of Fairbanks. I’m writing to highlight my strong support for the Alaska Food Policy Council (AFPC) and their request for state funding for the Farmers’ Market Quest Program (FMQP). The project provides economic stimulation to our summer farmers’ market and affords an inexpensive and easily accessed supply of healthy and locally grown foods to lower-income families. It’s an exemplary case of Alaskans helping Alaskans.
Over the past three years, the Quest Program has strengthened the local economy by bringing new customers to our farmers’ market. At our Downtown Market in Fairbanks, we helped connect more than 50 unique individuals and their families to healthy and organic produce. These individuals ran the gamut from men to women, the young and the old, single mothers to “traditional” family units. Those who utilized the program – a program that is, as I see it, a public service – spanned the board. Alaskans of all kinds benefited from the program.
The use of SNAP dollars has been an essential asset to this program. Having the ability to match food stamp requests up to $20 has helped every single one of our customers procure more food for themselves and their kin. Of Quest shoppers surveyed, 74% said they believe being able to shop at the market with their SNAP benefits would lead them to buy “a lot more” or “somewhat more” fresh produce than usual. It is a case of customers getting “more bang for their buck.”
In addition, the Quest program is one of “Alaska First.” The Quest program is a responsible – even patriotic – program, as every transaction at our market puts dollars into the Fairbanks economy. The program helps support local farms and farmers and decreases food insecurity amongst lower income Alaskans. This is something every Alaskan should support.
One particular measure I strongly support is the AFPC’s capital funding request of $412,562.00 for a full-time employee to be placed at Food Bank of Alaska (FBA) to administer the Quest program. This is a one-time funding request and would pay for both staffing costs and program operations for three years, long enough to establish a self-sustaining business model. FBA has a strong track record working with local farmers and collaborating with the state Division of Public Assistance to help make Alaska’s SNAP program a success. Being a highly stable and well established organization, they could provide the support the program needs to function effectively and in the long-term. This position would also allow FBA to work on connecting anti-hunger organizations with local food and farmers as part of their greater initiative to support local foods and thereby local economies, reducing food insecurity in Alaska.
In Administrative Order No. 265, you write that it is important to “improve the health of state residents, increase food security, strengthen local economies and encourage community development.” I couldn’t agree more. The Quest program provides an important public service that does all of these things. Since both yourself and the State are committed to these objectives, it makes absolute sense to invest in this program, a program which provides numerous benefits to Alaskans.
We want to make Alaska better. This is a great place to start.
Dear Governor Parnell,