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Double Your Cash at Local Farmers' Market

The USDA's Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive program provides grants to state and local governments and nonprofit organizations to create incentives for food stamp recipients to shop at farmers' markets and other fresh food outlets. (Pixabay)
The USDA's Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive program provides grants to state and local governments and nonprofit organizations to create incentives for food stamp recipients to shop at farmers' markets and other fresh food outlets. (Pixabay)
November 22, 2017

ANNAPOLIS, Md. – There's more to be thankful for at farmers' markets this holiday season. In addition to making fresh, locally grown produce available to customers, farmers' markets are expanding and boosting programs to make healthy food options available to low-income individuals.

Known for their healthy fresh produce, meats and dairy, farmers' markets are now attracting low-income families with incentives through various food aid programs such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) assistance program.

Michael Lipsky, a senior fellow at Demos, a public policy organization, says there is a universal benefit to government programs such as the USDA's Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive program, which offers grants to state and local organizations. They in turn offer things such as double the cash benefit for buying healthy foods.

"I'm very encouraged by these experimental efforts that recognize that in order for farmers' markets to work for everyone, public subsidies have to be used to make farmers' markets affordable," he states.

In each of the last two years, the Food Insecurity Nutrition program provided more than $16 million to draw SNAP recipients into farmers' markets by increasing the value of SNAP benefits when food stamp recipients shop there.

Christie Balch, executive director at Crossroads Community Food Network in Takoma Park, says its mission has long been to be a healthy-food access program for low-income families that couldn't afford fresh fruits and vegetables.

She says through private grants, if a family spent $20, the network would offer that same family an extra $20 to buy even more locally sourced foods.

"And that has a dual purpose,” she points out. “It helps low-income families afford more fresh, healthy food, but that money goes straight to the local farmers, so it also stimulates farmers."

Balch says Crossroads Community Food Network has welcomed support from programs such as the Farmers' Market Nutrition Program, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture supplemental nutrition grant because the program has grown in popularity as more people are choosing to eat healthier food options.


Trimmel Gomes, Public News Service - MD