Jennifer Marsh

Director of Food Access & Policy | Cultivate KC

In October, Jennifer Marsh found additional funding for a late season batch of Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program coupons she would be able to deliver to local KC farmers markets.

These coupons provide matching dollars that double the $30 that the state provides to $60 to low-income seniors for purchasing fresh fruits and vegetables at area farmers markets.

This morning she is delivering coupons to the KCK market. The market hasn’t been open long, but already there is a long line at the market tent. The market is a popular one because it takes place midweek during the day. It also is well attended by residents of the neighborhood who walk or take public transit to get there.

As she approaches the tent, Jennifer announces that she has more SFMNP coupons.

She sees the faces of two women light up. They were not expecting to have the dollars available so late in the season.

“It was like they were seeing Christmas presents,” Jennifer recalls.

One of the women gives Jennifer a big hug and says the coupons “would make her holiday.”

Delivering the coupons is Jennifer’s favorite part of her job as Cultivate KC’s Director of Food Access and Policy. Her role is a lot of relationship building and community outreach related to the management of Cultivate KC’s nutrition programs.

“The coupons are so greatly appreciated,” she said. “It makes me happy to know that I’m bringing joy to people.”

A recent transplant from the East Coast, Jennifer is new to Kansas City, but not to importance of food access to helping build stronger individuals and communities.

Her professional background includes over 11 years of managing national anti-violence programs. She also served as a consultant to private and public organizations to find impactful solutions to complex issues related to sexual violence.

After working for over a decade with survivors of trauma, Jennifer strongly believes in the power of growing and the positive impact healthy foods, minds and bodies can have on a community.

The connection to her previous work isn’t obvious, but she sees how the two fields work together.

With victims of abuse or assault, she says, the automatic response is to talk about feelings, the mental health components and then next steps and how to get help. But help has to start at a more basic level, she says.

“There’s no way you can begin to address and process trauma if your body is unhealthy and shutting down because you haven’t eaten or you haven’t eaten foods that help your body and mind function as they should be,” Jennifer said.

“Low-income folks are much more likely to be facing adversity or have survived trauma of some sort,” she continued. Often more pressing needs such as safety, housing and utilities overshadow the importance of the person’s health.

The goal of Cultivate KC nutrition programs like SFMNP and Double Up Food Bucks (which matches dollars spent by SNAP users at farmers markets) is to make local food – which is healthier and more nutrient dense – accessible to all members in our community.

“Being help with that foundation helps to set them on a path in which they can thrive in a way that is more sustainable and long-lasting,” Jennifer says, “It’s also giving them the best of something when they so often don’t get the best of anything.”

At the KCK market, Jennifer also sees how the programs benefit more than just the very happy customer; it’s also building a community.

 “You see the impact it has on her, but you also look at who is selling at those markets,” she said. “You see New Roots farmers there. Current and graduate. It’s a diverse mix of people and seeing them interact in such a positive way is wonderful. And knowing that the program benefits them both is really powerful to see.”

When you donate to Cultivate KC, your gift supports our Nutrition Programs, which not only expands access to local, fresh food to low-income families and seniors, but also benefits local farmers who sell to them at markets.

 

 

Cultivate Kansas City
300 E. 39th Street
Kansas City, MO 64111
Phone (913) 831-2444
info@cultivatekc.org Copyright © 2018