Farmers markets are places where communities come together. Farmers markets do many things to make it as easy as possible for everyone to shop there. Besides providing a wide variety of fresh farm products and handmade foods, some provide activities for children to make family shopping more enjoyable for everyone.
Most accept credit and debit for shoppers who don’t have cash on hand, and today many neighborhood farmers markets accept SNAP to make market shopping more accessible to everyone in the community.
Once called food stamps, SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, is a federal program that provides a monthly supplement for qualifying individuals and families to purchase certain foods, such as produce, bread, meat, and dairy products.
In Western North Carolina, there’s a new pilot program to double the value of SNAP benefits at some farmers markets. It’s called Double SNAP. ASAP rolled out the program at both Asheville City Markets this summer.
People who are eligible for SNAP can bring their EBT card to the market information booth. They receive tokens that can be used at any farmer’s market booth that sells SNAP-approved foods, plant starts, or seeds.
The funds come from donors and market shoppers. When shoppers go to the market, they can contribute a dollar or any amount they want when they get tokens for debit/credit purchases.
Jessica Sparks-Mussulin, a program manager at ASAP, explains the goals of the Double SNAP program—to benefit farmers who are reimbursed fully for the SNAP tokens spent at farmers markets, and to support people who use SNAP.
“The goals of the SNAP program are to facilitate greater access to local food by making it easier for people to access local food and purchase that once they are at the markets,” she says.
An important element in the success of the program is letting people who use SNAP know about the benefits. In addition to social media and the local news, ASAP reached out to agencies that work with people who use SNAP.
“We have a lot of community partners at Buncombe County Health and Human Services, so we’re letting them know that this is a program that’s available so they can let their program participants and clients know about it,” she says.
Market manager Mike McCreary says there’s been an increase in SNAP use at the Asheville City Markets since the program started this summer.
“It’s a very popular program,” he says. “We have seen, since a soft opening a little while back, a significant increase in SNAP use at the market—which is good for us, it’s good for those who receive the benefit, and of course it’s good for the food and farm vendors who then get those extra SNAP dollars.”
Learn more about how to access Double SNAP at farmers markets at www.asapconnections.org
Aired: July 15, 2019