July 2, 2009

DC farmers markets to double the value of food stamps

[Thanks to BFC intern Nora Lewis for reporting this story.]

Here’s a local reason to celebrate on this vacation weekend: starting July 4th, select FreshFarms Markets will be doubling the value of food stamps that are used to purchase fresh, nutritious foods.

This special opportunity is made possible in part by the Wholesome Wave Foundation’s Double Value Coupon Initiative. It's the latest in a string of local efforts to increase the flow of healthy food to low-income DC residents.

The Washington Post recently looked at the Wholesome Wave initiative and discovered early signs of success – profiling one market in Holyoke, Massachusetts (“one of the poorest [cities] in the country”) at which “sales using food stamps … jumped 290 percent.”

With levels of food stamp assistance currently increasing on both the federal and local level, this program could bring a similarly large influx of participation into DC’s local produce markets.

FreshFarms Co-Director Bernie Prince tells us that the matching program will only currently operate at two of the markets – H St. and Silver Spring – but that with additional funding they could to expand to additional locations.

FreshFarms first began accepting credits from SNAP (food stamps), WIC (Women Infants and Children) and SFMNP (Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program) at two of its markets around this time last year. The program came off to a slow start, though – approval from the USDA took a long time, and the process of converting EBT credits into farmers market tokens posed a technical challenge. This time around, there’s been a more concerted push through the farmers market coalition and the public agencies that administer these assistance programs. (Councilmember Tommy Wells has also been actively encouraging the program.) The markets will have card machines, a dedicated staff person to administer the transactions, and cooking demonstrations.

It seems like the program is already popular with farmers. While FreshFarms can register entire markets to receive SNAP food stamps, individual vendors must register themselves to receive WIC and SFMNP. So far, all qualifying vendors (i.e. those who sell produce) have registered.

“If people are out there on the 4th ready to buy,” says Bernie, “we’ll be ready for them.”

1 comment:

Steve Mandzik said...

Heya - thx for writing. To get more people to hit up the markets I created a list showing the markets by day:


hope it helps!