KANSAS CITY, Mo. - One cannot live on potato chips and toaster tarts alone. Fruits, vegetables, milk and meat are necessary parts of life. However, it takes a trained shopper to fill shopping carts with food that can fuel growing bodies.
Aubrey Noll and her two daughters do not miss a chance to shop at the City Market.
"Yep, every weekend," she laughed.
They won't skip a weekend, because at the City Market their money is doubled.
"They match it up to $15 and they gave me an extra $15, so I can spend $30 worth of food here which is awesome," Noll explained.
The Beans and Greens Program , funded by the Menorah Legacy Foundation, exchanges SNAP/ EBT dollars, what used to be considered food stamps, for market money. That way, families have the chance to buy fresh, local produce.
"They need to have their EBT card and we will swipe it," Market Master Deb Connors said/ "We will give them their money. Most people will give us $15, and we'll give them $15 free."
The program has exploded since its start at the City Market in 2009.
"Now, we do about 186 transactions every Saturday and about 45-50 every Sunday," Connors said. "So, every year it's getting bigger and bigger."
However, she said that number is just a drop in the bucket compared to all the families on food assistance in Kansas City.
Shopping is only half of the equation. Cooking to stretch your dollar is a whole other lesson to learn.
"We're talking about spending $1.50 per person, per meal," said Tammy Roberts, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist with the University of Missouri Extension Office.
That might seem like an unattainable goal, but at the Farm to Table Kitchen, teachers like Roberts make that happen.
On the day we visited, the class made a Mexican meal and salad. The meat used was 96 percent lean beef bought on sale, then supplemented with dried beans to increase protein intake.
"They do teach you how to be conscious when you're shopping in a store, to use unit pricing, to do sizes to keep your budget down," cooking class participant Sandi Simmons said.
Simmons said she learned to buy what she could in bulk, like rice, dried beans and flour. Also, she learned correct ways to use canned goods and to buy fruits and vegetables that are in season at the time.
This six week course is intended for families receiving food assistance.
"Each week they take home the ingredients for one of the recipes we prepare," Roberts explained.
The next round of classes planned for Jackson County starts at the end of September. To see a list of classes across Missouri, visit extension.missouri.edu .
There are folks all around us who need help putting healthy foods on the dinner table each night. You can help-out through Fill the Fridge. To learn more and donate online, visit www.kshb.com/FillTheFridge .