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Record Year for MN's Market Bucks Program


Monday, December 13, 2021   

MINNEAPOLIS - A program that gives low-income Minnesotans better opportunities to shop at farmers markets reports record use for 2021. The managers of "Market Bucks" say it will serve even more people in the coming months, and they hope for an expansion down the road.

Market Bucks, which is run by the group Hunger Solutions, provides matching dollars for SNAP recipients when they spend up to $10 at participating markets. This allows struggling households to stock up on fresh foods.

Jenny Heck, manager of the Mill City Farmers Market in Minneapolis, said at their spot, they too saw huge demand for the incentives.

"Not only have the number of transactions doubled and tripled from year to year, but we've also seen increase in average transaction size," said Heck. "So we know that folks also are spending more each time they come to the market."

Statewide, more than 17,000 customers made purchases through Market Bucks this year. Managers estimate that created more than $1.2 million in local economic activity, with vendors getting a boost from added sales.

Some participating locations, like Mill City, also accept Market Bucks during their winter markets, helping to maintain access to locally grown food.

Earlier this year, Market Bucks survived a budget scare at the State Capitol when its $325,000 annual subsidy was initially cut. But lawmakers like state Rep. Samantha Vang - D-Brooklyn Center - saw that it got final approval.

She said with Minnesota recently reporting a historic budget surplus, she'll look for opportunities for more funding to expand the program's scope.

"Where are the gaps and what are the needs?" asked Vang. "What we can do better to make the program more accessible?"

Heck added she hopes policymakers realize how much an impact the program has, even with its relatively small funding amount. She said it's serving a vital need as families deal with supply shortages and higher food prices.

"A small food system is able to pivot much easier when it comes to supply-chain problems," said Heck.

Currently, 87 Minnesota farmers markets accept Market Bucks. And thanks to a federal grant, customers will see more dollar-for-dollar matches in their purchases starting next summer.

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