More local food for low-income shoppers

Lily Haight lhaight@ptleader.com
Posted 10/16/18

Starting Nov. 3, the Jefferson County Farmers Markets will offer shoppers who qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program an extra $20 for every $25 spent on their Electronic Benefits …

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More local food for low-income shoppers

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Starting Nov. 3, the Jefferson County Farmers Markets will offer shoppers who qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program an extra $20 for every $25 spent on their Electronic Benefits Transfer card.

This is in addition to the market’s existing matching program, which gives an extra $2 for each $5 spent in EBT through the Fresh Bucks program, funded by a USDA Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive Grant.

“Last year we served over 500 people in our community through our matching program,” said market director Amanda Milholland. “Most of those people are representing a whole household, not just themselves. Every week, there’s someone who tells me that this makes a really big difference in their life.”

The JCFM also offers $20 to shoppers using Women Infants and Children, as well as Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program, through the community-funded Gimme5 program. The market uses Gimme5 to extend EBT benefits by offering shoppers an extra $5 when they spend $20 on their EBT card. 

Altogether, shoppers who qualify can get up to $45, including their EBT tokens. 

“We’ve been providing matching funds at the market since 2013,” Milholland said. “It was 2016 that we first got Gimme5 grant funds … and last year was the first full year of the Fresh Bucks program.”

According to Milholland, the matching programs have not only helped shoppers but also benefit the farmers who sell their local products at the market.

“So many of the farmers we work with are low income, too,” Milholland said. “Having the matching program makes a world of difference in their ability to sell products.”

Milholland hopes the matching programs will help families have constant access to local, fresh and nutritional foods.

“People have to have access to healthy food. It’s often the first thing to go when people are looking for the most food they can get for their dollars,” she said.

According to the USDA, 328,000 Washington households were food insecure in 2016 and nearly 16,000 Washington households experienced hunger. Locally, 4,400 Jefferson County residents suffer from food insecurity, according to the Jefferson County Community Health Improvement Plan and Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. 

To use the matching program at the farmers market, go to the market tent at the Port Townsend or Chimacum farmers markets and swipe your EBT card. The market staff will sell EBT tokens in $1 increments. For each $5 spent in EBT, the staff will give an additional $2 in Fresh Bucks. There is no limit to the amount of EBT dollars the market will match with Fresh Bucks. Spend $20 on your EBT card and get $8 in Fresh Bucks and one $5 Gimme5 token. Then, starting Nov. 3, the market will provide an extra $20 in matching if you spend $25 in EBT. For more information, go to jcfmarkets.org.

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