Samantha is a Health Communication Intern at the Department of Public Health
Farmer’s Markets are springing up everywhere across the Commonwealth, in every season. These markets are a great place for community members to buy local, fresh foods year-round. And in order to make these foods even more affordable, Mass in Motion communities are working with local Farmer’s Markets to increase their capacity to accept SNAP benefits.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is a program that supports people in need with a monthly allowance to buy food. Participants receive an Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card to buy food as if they were using a debit card.
While markets are often cash only, many are becoming EBT-ready to accept SNAP benefits as payment. Markets can apply easily online with the USDA Food and Nutrition Service. It’s a small investment up front, but well worth it long term. An added advantage is that EBT machines can also accept major credit cards from those who might not have cash – making it easier for everyone to buy fresh and local!
Doubling SNAP Points
Mass in Motion communities such as Cambridge and Northampton are providing an extra incentive for those who use their SNAP benefits at local markets with the “SNAP doubling system”. With this system, individuals are matched up to $10 in Double Bucks Tokens to be redeemed at the market. In other words, an individual gets $20 worth of fresh food by only spending $10 of their SNAP benefit money! Some vendors also accept WIC Fruit and Vegetable vouchers by applying through the USDA.
After 3 years of doubling at Cambridge’s Central Square Market, more local residents know about the market and the program – and SNAP customers are coming more often! Alison, Outreach and Volunteer Manager for Mass Farmers Markets explains, “Whether they’re really interested in the food or solely the free money, it gets them here. Once they’re here they see the great atmosphere, how much fresher the food is and they are introduced to a different lifestyle. The program makes living healthily more affordable. It’s important to open everyone’s eyes to farmer’s markets, their benefits and the importance of following a healthy life path.”
Northampton’s Tuesday Market SNAP doubling program, FoodStampsX2 (FSX2), partners with the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts and welcomes a representative every month to speak about SNAP benefits with customers and help them sign up. They also train market managers to assist customers on their own.
Want to learn more or get involved? Check out both programs at: http://northamptontuesdaymarket.com/ and http://www.cambridgewinterfarmersmarket.com/index.html.
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