The U.S. Department of Agriculture is spending over $500,000 to start farmers markets for refugees on food stamps.
The International Rescue Committee (IRC) enrolls 10,000 refugees in the United States every year onto the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps. The group received the funding to provide "culturally-appropriate" corner stores and food markets.
"The IRC will expand and deepen the impact of its successful Fresh Fund incentive program over the next four years in seven refugee-rich neighborhoods across Salt Lake City, Phoenix, Baltimore, and Charlottesville," according to the grant, part of a $16.8 million effort announced by the agency last week to get food stamp enrollees to eat more vegetables.
The agency said refugees and immigrants in the United States are simultaneously at risk for "under-nutrition and obesity, and are highly dependent on SNAP to meet nutritional needs."
The funding will create one co-op farmers market, seven "farm stands," and 10 corner stores for refugees in Utah, Arizona, Maryland, and Virginia.
The stores and markets will use a "culturally-appropriate products list" of 40 fruits and vegetables in an attempt to get newly arrived refugees to eat healthy food.
The IRC has received $564,231 for the project, which will run until March 2019. The funding will go towards the group’s "New Roots" program.
The organization works to build "new roots in America, one farmers market at a time." In Charlottesville, Virginia, the group has brought Electronic Benefit Transfer, or EBT, machines to a local farmers market.
"I like to work the EBT machine," said lluminae Nzeyimana, who works at the Michie Drive Market. "I help people to see the balance on their EBT card, if they want to know if they have enough money to buy vegetables."
The IRC recently launched an ad campaign featuring cast members of the HBO series Game of Thrones calling for people to "stand with refugees." The group has also received federal funding to resettle Afghan interpreters, who sometimes wait years to come to America through the Special Immigration Visa program.
Interpreters, including Ajmal Faqiri, a former translator for the U.S. military who worked for Defense Secretary Robert Gates, said the IRC placed them in apartment complexes infested with bed bugs with no heat or furniture.
Food stamps are not the only federal government expenditure associated with accepting refugees. On average taxpayers are billed $20,000 per refugee. The United States has admitted 2,099 Syrian refugees this year.
The IRC did not respond to request for comment.