June 28, 2010

Doubling farmers market dollars: food stamp benefits

The District’s food stamp eligibility rules changed recently, making thousands of households whose income is between 133% and 200% of the Federal Poverty Level newly eligible for benefits.

Bread for the City's legal clinic interns Zila McDowell, Bryan Evans, and Carrie Johnson recently called through the 151 food pantry clients who reported incomes in this range. The clients’ eligibility for benefits depends on several additional factors: their household size, income source (a job versus disability benefits and other unearned income), and certain household expenses. Based on the information they gave us, some of these clients became eligible for food stamps when the changes went into effect.

The interns helped interested clients complete a food stamp estimator, giving them a sense of the level of benefits for which they’d qualify. Carrie says, “clients I called were excited about the change in the food stamp program. Some only qualified for $16 [the minimum monthly benefit for 1- and 2-person households], but they still said ‘something is better than nothing…. I’ll take what I can get.’”

Even $16 in food stamps will stretch a little farther this summer thanks to Freshfarm farmers’ market’s “Double Dollars” program. We covered this program last summer and are pleased to report that this year it’s expanded from one to three farmers’ markets in the District (plus the Saturday market in Silver Spring):

  • 200 Independence Avenue SW on Wednesdays from 2:30-6:30pm

  • 810 Vermont Avenue, NW on Thursdays from 3-7pm

  • 625 H Street NE on Saturdays from 9am-noon

  • Food stamp recipients who visit these markets can make up to a $10 charge on their EBT cards, and get twice the value of their charge in tokens to buy food at the market. (Several other markets take EBT cards and the $25 in “Get Fresh” checks provided to WIC and Senior Farmers' Market Nutrition Program recipients, but are not currently participating in double-dollar promotions. A new market at Howard University Hospital is also taking WIC and senior vouchers.)

    According to Carrie, “Mr. P was incredibly excited about the farmers’ market double-dollars program. He was excited about being able to buy fresh produce in an open air market.” We’re glad that DC food stamp recipients can now extend their food budgets and access more nutritious, locally-grown food…and happy to have interns who help us share this good news with our clients!

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