Killer: This decision for Aspen Saturday Market should be a SNAP
As summer approaches, I can’t help but get excited for the bounty of local fresh fruits and vegetables that will make their way onto our plates. And knowing they’re grown locally makes them taste even sweeter.
Unfortunately, not everyone gets to enjoy this harvest. The ability to buy locally-grown — and often organic — produce is a privilege not everyone in our community can afford.
I’ve lived in the Roaring Fork Valley since 2019 and worked at a local farm my first summer here, so I know first-hand that organic, small-scale farming is a labor intensive and expensive operation.
I understand the reason behind the fair prices at the Aspen Saturday Market, but even when I worked as a local food provider, I couldn’t afford to buy the food I grew.
Most people agree that local food is healthier for people and the planet: It reduces transportation costs and carbon emissions, boosts the local economy, and reduces harmful pesticide usage.
So why should something that benefits everyone only be available to the most privileged? Everyone deserves access to this incredibly delicious, healthy, and community-promoting food, which is why the Aspen Saturday Market should accept SNAP benefits – the government assistance program that subsidizes low-income households’ ability to purchase fresh food.
Higher quality diets are disproportionately consumed by more affluent people, whereas lower-income households tend to buy more affordable, “energy dense” foods, which are less nutrient rich and more processed.
The sheer price difference between locally-grown and commercially-available food can make it less accessible to lower-income households. Tomatoes at the Aspen Saturday Market generally sell for $6-$7 per pound compared to City Market, which sells them for $2-$3 per pound year-round.
Our local farmers should be fairly compensated for their hard work, but the local community and economy would mutually benefit from the Aspen Saturday Market accepting SNAP.
Despite Aspen’s status as a world class destination, Pitkin County has a 9% poverty rate. Three percent of its population actively use SNAP benefits, which are known to significantly improve quality of life for lower-income households. In a town where people fly private jets to visit third and fourth homes, economically barring locals from the choice to buy locally-grown food is clearly inequitable.
The Roaring Fork Valley is an amazing place to live and work. People who work two to three jobs to provide for themselves should get to experience all it has to offer. The Aspen Saturday Market accepting SNAP would mean keeping more locally-earned dollars in the community, helping us thrive both economically and socially.
I know farmers who support this, and there’s a community need for the Aspen Saturday Market to accept SNAP. Although the SNAP registration process may seem daunting for the market manager, our neighboring Carbondale Market serves as an example of successfully enacting the program.
If you would like to see SNAP benefits accepted at the Aspen Saturday Market, contact the market manager at email@example.com to express your interest.
Megan Killer, of Basalt, is a master’s student in conservation leadership at Colorado State University.