Your tax dollars:
I told you about one of the latest trends in the burgeoning refugee business—refugee gardening here, and a reader involved with a project in Ft. Wayne told us about the pitfalls (mostly refugees don’t want to do the work) here. So when I saw an article about a gardening grant to the International Institute in St. Louis*, I explored a little further.
Here is some of the story at a post at 17th Ward:
The International Institute, a refugee resettlement agency serving clients in St. Louis, recently received a grant [how big was the grant?—ed] that will enable them to start a larger-scale community garden located on the 4000 block of Folsom in Botanical Heights, neighboring the existing (and recently famed) Botanical Heights Community Garden. The garden will serve as a community space for International Institute clients in an effort to provide them opportunity for healthy nutrition, economic sustainability, and integration into American society. The International Institute is working with the Garden District Commission in obtaining space for the garden.
Who awards the grant?
US Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Refugee Resettlement. The grant is called the Refugee Agricultural Partnership Program. The goal of the grant is to support rural and urban farming, gardening and food systems projects that use partnerships to create income, have healthier food and better nutrition, and enhance integration into American society on the part of refugee families.
They will be selling their produce?
By using their past skills as farmers, refugees will enhance their sense of self-sufficiency, community cohesion and a reconnection with their past. Also by selling produce in local markets they will connect with the St. Louis community and earn supplemental income.
Sounds lovely, but did anyone run the numbers on this—-you know how much taxpayer money goes in to produce how much food at what market value?
So how much money are we talking about?
Yikes, the Office of Refugee Resettlement is planning 12 projects for a total taxpayer outlay of $1,000,000. Each project will cost from $50,000-100,000! Read all about it here.
Below is a portion of the grant description that gives me pause. Am I reading this correctly? Are we going to be expanding the use of food stamps at farmers markets (or have we already)? We have enough problems with mom and pop convenience stores and food stamp fraud. Can you imagine if every little farm stand could take food stamps! So tell me, am I reading this wrong?
…..in addition to having farming and gardening activites, projects may promote the purchase of fresh produce at farmers markets and other outlets from personal earnings and the programs of the USDA Food & Nutrition Service that include SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), WIC (Women Infants & Children) and Seniors Coupons.
Endnote: Be sure to check out the photo of the raised beds in the 17th Ward post. I don’t want to sound too cranky but think of the waste of land with that helter skelter layout of the raised beds. Imagine how hard it will be to keep the grass and weeds under control between beds that cannot easily be mowed around. I wonder how many low-income Americans would like to have new lumber and trucked-in soil for their own gardens?
* We had a report about refugee neglect by the International Institute of St. Louis way back in 2007, here.