Having access to fresh, nutritious food is even more essential during a pandemic. However, high unemployment rates have put a strain on many people’s food budgets, prompting more people to seek support from the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as SNAP.
Now those SNAP dollars can be stretched farther through ASAP’s Double SNAP initiative. This program allows farmers markets to make a 100-percent match on dollars spent via Electronic Benefit Transfer cards, or EBT cards.
“For example, a customer can come and they can swipe their EBT card for $75 and then they’re going to receive $150 dollars worth of these wooden SNAP tokens and then they can take those SNAP tokens and then spend them at the vendor booth, says Kate Hanford, market manager at Asheville City Market.
Asheville City Market has been piloting the Double SNAP program since 2019, and the need is even greater during the pandemic. That’s why ASAP is expanding the program to four additional farmers markets in Buncombe County and partnering with other agencies to expand programs in Henderson, Transylvania, Haywood, and Madison counties as well.
“It’s really a win-win situation because the customers are getting twice the amount of fresh local food for their SNAP dollar, and then that money goes directly into the pockets of our farmers and value-added producers, many of whom have seen a huge increase in their sales as a result of this program,” Kate says.
The ASAP Farmers Market at A-B Tech is matching an average of $1,500 SNAP dollars each week.
“So that’s $3,000 worth of farm fresh produce and value-added foods going into the homes of our customers, and then that’s $3,000 going into the pockets of our vendors,” Kate says.
Customers can purchase a wide range of seasonal produce, bread, meat, dairy products, and plants that produce edible food through the SNAP program. Kate says pastured meat and eggs have been especially popular with Double SNAP customers at the ASAP market on Saturdays.
Across town on Thursday afternoons, the Enka/Candler Tailgate Market is almost ready to add Double SNAP to their market offerings. 2019 was its first year as a new farmers market, and market manager Heather Fleming says they’ve seen a significant increase in shoppers at their new location at the A-B Tech Enka campus this year.
“We’ve probably quadrupled the number of people that are attending markets this year,” Heather says. “I think that the location has been a really big part, and I also think a lot of the promotion through ASAP and ASAP Connections has been really helpful. The focus that they’ve been putting on smaller and newer markets has been really helpful for us.”
The Enka/Candler market began offering SNAP benefits this spring, and plans to join the Double SNAP program in September. The program falls in line with the market’s mission to provide the community with fresh, local food.
“I think everybody should be able to access fresh food and support local in any way that they can with whatever means that they have available to them. The Double SNAP program just gives more incentive to those community members to be able to spend their money where their hearts and health desire, and to be able to give the money back to the local community while supporting their own health,” Heather says.
A list of local farmers markets that accept SNAP can be found on ASAP’s website, along with the days and times of markets that are joining the Double SNAP program. Instructions on how to use SNAP at farmers markets and a map of markets located on Asheville bus lines can also be found at https://asapconnections.org/find-local-food/farmers-markets/snap-market-programs/
Aired: August 24, 2020