$10 SNAP Matching at the Farmers' Market Starts May 11!
Close your eyes. Imagine a farmers’ market. What are some things that come to mind? Heirloom veggies and wildcrafted mushrooms and herbs? Organically grown, non-GMO produce? Artisan cheeses, chocolates, and breads? Handcrafted hot foods and sweet treats? Chatting with a farmer or producer about the food you’re buying? What about affordability?
If you’ve been shopping at Portland-area farmers’ markets for a while, affordability may be one of the first things that comes to mind when you think about farmers’ markets. That’s because many farmers’ markets - including People’s - are helping improve access to farmers’ markets by giving people using government food benefits (like SNAP, EBT cards or WIC vouchers) matching funds to spend at farmers’ markets. At People’s Farmers’ Market, for example, we give folks using their EBT cards up to an additional $5 to use at the Market. In fact, in 2015 we gave matching funds to more than 80 people per week on average. That’s over $19,000 that went to our local economy and helped our community eat healthy, local food!
In 2016, we hope to do even more to provide our community with access to food they can trust, through a new program called Double Up Food Bucks (DUFB). DUFB is a statewide nutrition incentive program funded by a grant from the US Department of Agriculture that is designed to make fresh fruits and vegetables more affordable while supporting family farmers and local economies. The program will provide SNAP recipients with a dollar-to-dollar match up to $10 each market day to purchase fruits and vegetables.
DUFB will be offered at People’s Farmers’ Market beginning the first week of May, and will replace our current matching program. For our SNAP shoppers, this means a couple of changes:
1. A new currency that can be used at over 40 farmers’ markets statewide. For a map of participating markets, pick up a brochure at the info booth or see www.doubleupfoodbucks.com/locations.
2. New restrictions on what matching funds can be spent on. Whereas EBT funds (including Farmers’ Market tokens) can be spent on any SNAP-eligible foods, the Double Up Food Bucks can only be spent on fresh, dried, or frozen fruit and vegetables (including mushrooms, herbs, and beans) without added sugars, fats, oils, or salt.
The process to get the matching funds will be the same, though: stop by the info booth with your EBT card, swipe your card for EBT tokens, get matching tokens, and shop! If you are not using an EBT card but want to support the program, you can make a donation at the register to help us keep the program going throughout the 2016 season.
While People’s is looking forward to offering this new $10 match to our community, which helps us move towards our Ends of providing “access to healthy foods our customers can trust” and supporting “thriving local and cooperative economies,” some members of the Collective Management (myself included) have some hesitations about the program.
First, in restricting the use of the matching funds to such a narrow range of products in the name of promoting healthy eating, the USDA seems to be ignoring the well-documented health benefits of fermented foods (including sauerkrauts and tempeh) and honey. We also feel that such restrictions suggest that people using SNAP benefits are not able to make good food choices on their own. However, we see the fact that people are using their SNAP benefits at farmers’ markets as evidence to the contrary. [P1] Finally, the restrictions against masa, tortillas, pickles, and ferments create explicit barriers around culturally appropriate foods for many people in our community.
Despite these issues, People’s is excited about providing additional food dollars to people in our community when housing costs are going up and up, wages are stagnating, food costs are increasing, and government benefits are being cut. People can still use EBT tokens for anything allowed under the SNAP rules, which means $10 in Double Up Food Bucks for all your fruit and veggies, and $10 of your own EBT dollars for any other SNAP-eligible foods at the market.
Everyone deserves access to the great foods that the farmers’ market offers. It is exciting to be able to join the Double Up Food Bucks program with more than 40 other farmers’ markets across the state to help increase that access, while supporting the farmers and small producers who help our local economy thrive.
-Ashley Todd, Farmers' Market Coordinator & Comanager