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MN Market Bucks Win-Win for Shoppers, Farmers

Minnesota's Market Bucks program is operating at 96 farmers' markets across the state this summer. (
Minnesota's Market Bucks program is operating at 96 farmers' markets across the state this summer. (
June 21, 2018

ST. PAUL, Minn. – The state's farmers markets are open for the summer, and Hunger Solutions Minnesota reminds families receiving food assistance they can buy twice as much fresh food by using Market Bucks.

Minnesota's SNAP beneficiaries who use their Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards can spend $10 at a market and have that matched dollar for dollar to purchase $20 in fresh produce.

Patti Whitney-Wise, program manager for Hunger Solutions, says the program helps support better health and allows families to stretch their dollars to buy produce they might not normally buy.

"The farmers love it, too,” she adds. “Oftentimes if they see them using their Market Bucks, they'll add extra produce in for free because they know how much it means to those families."

The program is operating this summer at 96 farmers markets across Minnesota, where food insecurity is estimated to affect one in 11 adults and one in eight children.

Minnesota was the first state in the nation to fund a farmers market incentive program.

Aimee Foster with the Lincoln Park and Hillside farmers markets in Duluth says in addition to promoting items sold by local growers, the program helps build community engagement.

"They're often surprised when we tell them they can buy any EBT-eligible item, ranging from bread to eggs to especially meat,” she states. “Everybody loves that. It's a win-win for everyone."

In 2017, the program allowed more than 3,000 first-time customers to purchase food from farmers markets. Whitney-Wise says Hunger Solutions has tracked the program's economic benefit to the state's economy.

"For instance, last year SNAP families spent $377,000 in SNAP EBT, and that is estimated to leverage $676,000 in additional economic activity," she states.

Nearly 44 percent of Minnesota's children benefit from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and more than 50,000 seniors are enrolled.

Market Bucks is funded by the Minnesota Legislature and administered by the Minnesota Humanities Center in partnership with Hunger Solutions Minnesota.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - MN