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Courtney Marquart and Charlie Lipton pick out plants, including tomatoes, corn, peas and dill, on Saturday at the Lifeline Produce stand at the Missoula Farmers Market for the raised bed garden they're building. Saturday was the first day of the market this season.

Bonnie Buckingham, director of the Community Food and Agriculture Coalition in Missoula, will give a talk Wednesday about increasing the affordability of – and access to – local foods.

Buckingham will speak from noon to 1:30 p.m. at the Missoula Public Library, 301 E. Main St., as part of the Missoula Food Bank’s “Food For Thought” lecture series.

“We work on developing and strengthening our local food system, and the talk will be sort of a look at the food system as a whole,” Buckingham explained. “We will sort of look at how we can more locally source our food, grow more local and look at alternative ways of accessing food other than the conventional food system.

"We’ll be talking about where our food comes from, what issues there are with our current food system and the industrial commercial international food system, and how people can get involved in creating a more healthy and locally sourced food system in Missoula County.”

Buckingham said there is a perception that it’s not cost-effective to purchase local food and that low-income residents can’t afford local food products because they are more expensive.

“One of the solutions we have come up with as a community is to provide double (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) dollars at local farmers markets and at the Missoula Food Co-Op’s community-supported agriculture program, which is weekly delivery of food, and at the Missoula Food Co-Op,” she said.

“We’ve created a program where people can get double the value of their food stamp dollars at one of these places, both at the Clark Fork River Market or the Missoula Farmers Market. When they swipe their SNAP card and purchase $10 worth of tokens, they would get $20 of produce. It’s a way to expand their dollar. It supports local farmers who are growing food.”

She said the money for the program came from several thousand dollars in private donations.

“We’ve been conducting fundraising efforts throughout Missoula, asking local financial institutions and foundations to support this program,” she said.

Buckingham said the program makes local food more affordable while supporting the economy at the same time.

“It’s a great program because it does help farmers because they are selling twice as much produce that way,” she said. “It really helps to open up access to local food, and also to the community and it’s a positive program on many fronts.”

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The “Food for Thought” series, presented by the Missoula Food Bank, is a monthly look at the issues that cause hunger.

On Wednesday, June 17, at the same time and location, UM nutrition professor Blakely Brown will talk about the paradox of hunger and obesity.

On July 21 from 5 to 7 p.m., the documentary “A Place at the Table” will be shown followed by a discussion about reducing hunger in the community. On Aug. 19 from noon to 1:30 p.m., there will be a discussion about the academic gap for kids in poverty.

For more information visit missoulafoodbank.org or missoulacfac.org.

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