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Organizations: Wholesome Wave Georgia

An estimated 30 percent of Georgians reside in “food deserts,” with little or no access to fresh groceries. When the only fare available is high in calories and low in nutrition, obesity rates soar and health suffers.

Enter Wholesome Wave Georgia (WWG), a nonprofit that increases the availability of wholesome, locally grown food in a way that helps consumers, farmers and the economy. The group, based in Atlanta, doubles each dollar spent with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, more commonly known as “food stamps”) at farmers markets across the state, so shoppers increase their buying power with fruits and veggies while growers also reap rewards.

“Most people with low incomes can’t afford to shop at farmers markets, but our program leverages existing programs to empower them to eat better and avoid cheap, processed food,” says Executive Director Sara Berney. “Every nutrition benefit dollar spent at a WWG partner market becomes two dollars for the shopper and for the farmer. This means more money for farmers and that more Georgians gain access to fresh food.”

WWG has grown to include 35 farmers markets and direct-marketing farms that extend beyond Metro Atlanta to Rock Spring, Macon, Carrollton and Savannah, representing at least 1,000 growers. That harvest adds up to more than $360,000 in locavore food for SNAP recipients in 2014 and more than $1 million since the organization’s inception in 2009. Recently, the United States Department of Agriculture reported that Georgia leads the nation with the third highest amount of SNAP redemptions at farm-sourced venues.

“We strive to foster a better food culture all around, with people examining where their food comes from and why they should eat better,” Berney says.

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