Running for Fresh Checks


Dear Reader:

This week, I sent the message below to friends and family to raise funds for a cause I believe in. That cause just so happens to relate to food! Check it out, and give if you can.

Hello, friends! I hope this message finds you well and enjoying the new, fresh nip in the air.

I’m writing to ask for a little help. Recent chilly mornings and evenings have found me running, with the goal of completing my first 10K race on October 25. This is a bit of a challenge, given that my average run before this clocked in around 3 miles and this is more than double that!  (The run is part of the Marine Corps Marathon. Somehow this is very different from triathlons!)

I’m doing this to inspire others to do something new, too–to learn about and support a matching funds program for low-income shoppers at the Crossroads Farmers Market.

This program is in peril, and badly needs a boost to finish out the market season.

My goal, by the day of the race, is to raise at least $1,000. That equals  a market day’s worth of “Fresh Checks” – extra funding that low income shoppers can use for fresh produce. The race is just three weeks away!

A gift of $50, $25, $10, or whatever you can manage would make a huge difference in this effort, and for a lot of people trying to eat healthy, and feed their families in a healthy way, on a limited budget.

To give, go to and click on “Donate.”  If you’d like to pay by check, you can certainly mail one, or give it to me to pass along.

If you’d like to know more about how the program works, read on.

It all starts when a customer comes to the market and uses food stamps or similar  aid to buy produce. When they do, Crossroads gives them an extra $5 voucher to use at the market. First-time customers can receive a voucher for $10.

That means a donation of $50 will support vouchers for 10 families, allowing them each to buy more healthy produce (and keep them coming back).

$25 will support 5 Fresh Check vouchers for regular customers.
$10 will give a first-time customer a reason to return.
Really, anything you can contribute is welcome.

How did this all come about?

I first fell for Crossroads Farmers Market because of its elote loco (crazy corn) and freshly-made pupusas, the local and sustainably grown produce, and the clientele that comes from so many different ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Then I found out about Fresh Checks. As I mentioned, this program hooks up shoppers with fresh, local produce. But it also increases income for the farmers and reminds people how tasty fresh produce can be, inspiring the practice buying of buying and preparing healthy foods.

Like the famous Cash for Clunkers program, though, Fresh Checks got too popular for its own good. This season, funds dried up sooner than anyone expected. So, like I said, the program is in peril. The market had to reduce the $5 coupons to $3, and eliminated the $10 incentives for first-time shoppers.

As a result, the market saw a dramatic drop in attendance. (Read more about this in The Washington Post and in my farmers market column). The market staff has applied for several grants, but they won’t come through until next market season — if cash-strapped foundations can come through at all. So if they’re going to revive the program this year, it’s going to require individual support.

This cause has both personal and ideological significance for me. Due to layoffs and the plummeting economy, several people close to me now rely on food stamps to buy groceries. I’ve seen how tough it is to stay full on a stretched budget, let alone eat fresh, healthy produce. The economic squeeze may very well have put someone close to you in the same situation.

On another level, Crossroads can serve as a model for communities everywhere, inspiring foundations and individuals to invest in their neighbors’ well-being. This market takes place just outside Washington, D.C., putting it in the perfect position to show policy makers the difference healthy food can make. With that in mind, whether you live in D.C. or New York, or somewhere else near or far, I hope that you will give to this cause.

My goal of $1,000 will restore Fresh Checks at their original value for one important day. The folks at Crossroads — market managers Michelle Dudley and Michele Levy, the rest of the staff, and the local farmers — are all looking forward to this boost. They will be promoting the extra veggie-buying power over the next few weeks, and use the funds on the last market day, October 28.

You are welcome to come by that day to see the donations at work. Hopefully, we can end the market season with a bang!

Thank you so much, and wish me luck on the run 🙂

Peas (local ones, of course),

P.S. I realize making a donation of $50 or $25 might be tough for some folks. If you can’t give as much as you’d like, or can’t give at all right now, I totally understand. If you can just take a minute to forward this to a few friends, that would be a huge help. Of course, you can both donate AND forward this! I’m truly grateful for any support you can give!

Again, if I lost you in all this explanation, to give: check out or go directly to Crossroads’ Paypal account. Thank you!!


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