By Violet Lavatai, Food Access Team Member
On February 14, 2012 Women in Green took a second trip to Olympia to join Faith Action Now (FAN) in fighting for some of the programs that Governor Gregoire’s new budget proposals have put on the chopping block for the regular sessions. One of the programs that the Women in Green’s Food Access Team is fighting for is the Farmers Market Nutritional Program (FMNP). The proposed cut is $100,000—the amount the state pays to administer the program. This small cut will force the state to lose nearly $900,000 in Federal food dollars.
Cutting $100,000 and losing almost $1 million dollars is bad math!
The program provides $20 each month to low-income families already in the WIC program (Women Infants & Children) and $40 to those in the Senior Farmers Market Nutritional Program to buy locally-grown fresh produce and fruits at the Farmers Market. They come in the form of vouchers and are given every quarter.
On our first trip we took with us 230 signed petitions to save FMNP, packets with information about the program, and who we are. As we ventured out on our second trip we were armed with 50 more signatures. We went back to make sure that our representatives were fighting for this program and to remind them again of how important it is to save! All of our legislators in SE Seattle (37th District) made firm commitments to fight to save this program. Please call and thank them – and ask them to keep the pressure on:
Senator Adam Kline – 360-786-7944 – firstname.lastname@example.org
Representative Eric Pettigrew – 360-786-7838 – email@example.com
Representative Sharon T. Santos – 360-786-7944 – firstname.lastname@example.org
**Call or email to say thank you and let them know how important FMNP is to you, your family, or your community**
We went to talk to each of them about some of the programs that we want to save and to ask them to champion these issues. When we went to their offices, they were on the floor voting, but their aides were there. We remembered that on our first trip we talked to Senator Adam Kline about the FMNP and it made a difference because with all the issues that came across his desk the FMNP stuck out. As we went to different offices we talked to each of the aides to make sure our programs would not get shuffled to the back-burner because we know that there are a lot of great programs being cut.
After talking to them we took a break for lunch, a few women from our WIG team were sitting on the bench in the Capitol admiring the buildings and statues, and someone ran in and said that Senator Adam Kline was on the steps of the Capitol. I went into “advocacy mode” (don’t know if that is correct but hey these are my words), I went outside and there he was- Senator Kline. So we circled around him and we knew we had to speak one at a time. So I spoke first and he remembered me from the last time WIG brought the FMNP to his attention. I directly asked the question that brought me to Olympia: “Is this program on your priority list”? And he replied, “Yes it is, it is 5th on the list.” I thought, that was like music to my ears. I thanked him and after talking to him we went back in to the Capitol. As we were filing back in to the Capitol one of the women from the other group mentioned that Senator Kline is a frequent customer to the Columbia City Farmers Market, which is located next door to the Got Green office (that would be us!) and how it would affect not only him but all the families that buy or sell there.
To spread the word more, our WIG team decided to seek out other districts and to pass out information on FMNP to get support wherever we can get. We dropped off letters to Representative Phyllis Kenny from the 46th District, and Representatives Ross Hunter and Bob Hasegawa from the 11th District. A legislative aide said she knew that he was not aware of this program being cut so one of our team members explained everything to her. As I think about this program that could easily be saved I often wonder if people know how important and vital FMNP vouchers are to these families (who are considered to be below poverty level).
Although she wasn’t in her office this time and we left her a packet, in response to our first visit, Senator Lisa Brown from the 3rd district and Chair on the senate side sent us a card to thank us and to let us know that she is a long time supporter of this program and “she will work to save this program.” On the ride home from Olympia I felt good about our WIG team spreading the message and not giving up hope. We know that $100,000 being cut and will result in the loss of a $900,000 program and this is bad math—it does not make sense!