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SNAP! It's National Farmers Market Week

Help formerly known as "food stamps" now available at Santa Fe Farmers Market. Courtesy: Santa Fe Farmers Market
Help formerly known as "food stamps" now available at Santa Fe Farmers Market. Courtesy: Santa Fe Farmers Market
August 6, 2015

SANTA FE, N.M. – New Mexico farmers markets are reporting success with a program that provides extra food to residents receiving benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps.

With this week marking National Farmers Market Week across the nation, the news is certainly timely.

Paolo Speirn, market director with the Santa Fe Farmers Market, says the program provides a two-to-one match for people using their SNAP benefits to buy food at farmers markets.

"We're just seeing our SNAP participation go through the roof," he says. "Over the past two months $40,000 worth of SNAP money has gone from low-income families – getting them fresh, healthy produce – into the pockets of our growers."

Speirn says the state is providing $400,000 to fund the SNAP program in place at about 35 farmers markets around the state.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports a 64 percent increase in traffic at farmers markets that have been open for at least two years, and that the growing popularity of farmers markets is helping to sustain farmers and rural communities.

Denise Miller, executive director of the New Mexico Farmers Market Association, says the economic benefit is significant.

"When you keep food dollars local, that money gets recirculated in the communities," she says. "For every dollar spent with a farmer, $1.80 is getting recirculated."

Both Miller and Speirn attribute the growth of popularity in farmers markets to consumers wanting to know more about where and how their food is grown. New Mexico has about 75 farmers markets. Nationwide the number is at about 8,400.

Lori Abbott/Troy Wilde, Public News Service - NM