The Farmers Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) enables 76,000 low-income children and seniors in the state of Washington to afford fresh produce. The program is also on the chopping block during the special legislative session in November, but not if Got Green has anything to do with it.
On Nov. 19, a small but determined group of community members from the organization walked from Othello and 42nd in South Seattle to the front of a Chase Bank located at 7100 Martin Luther King Jr. Way S. to protest the bank’s excessive profits, which they believe came at the expense of FMNP.
With chants calling upon the bank to “pay their fair share,” the protest comes at a time coinciding with the national dialogue around the greed of private corporations, said Got Green Director Michael Woo, in reference to the national Occupy Wall Street movement. Got Green, the organization behind the protest, worked to empower low-income women in South Seattle to derive their share of benefits from the green economy, including access of healthy and organic foods.
“The farmer’s market bucks let us make ends meet,” said Violet Lavatai Ueligitone to the manager of Chase Bank, Joseph Brunette, as protestors descended into the bank. “We can get the fresh produce, not the processed foods.”
According to a media advisory issued by Got Green, Washington’s Department of Social and Health Service has an $8 million contract with Chase Bank to distribute cash and food benefits, (such as Temporary Aid for Needy Families (TANF) and food stamps) through EBT cards. The bank receives benefits every time they administer a card. They also charge an extra hidden fee of 85 cents per transaction to TANF recipients.
“I hope that Chase [Bank] really thinks about the impact they are having on poor families with young kids, as well as on seniors,” said Chio Saeteurn, a community organizer with Got Green. “With the profits they are earning, it’s not only right to do but will stimulate the economy.”
The proposed cuts would dismantle the FMNP, resulting in a forfeiture of $894,000 in federal food subsidies. The protestors called upon the bank to give back 10 percent of their profits to save the program. The bank did not comment.
“The FMNP gives 40 dollars to seniors and 20 dollars to low-income families with children to help with the grocery bill every month,” said Ueligitone. “We’re not talking about thousands of dollars, we’re talking about morsels that families depend upon.”
Because the cuts would primarily affect children’s access to healthy foods, Got Green leaders had children assemble at the forefront. The kids handed a symbolic paper turkey to Brunette in keeping with the theme of celebrating food during Thanksgiving.
“The whole notion of Thanksgiving is to think of family and the community for us is family,” said Woo. “We try to do it in a way that encourages people to eat healthy.”