Eating healthy is a great goal, but it’s not always affordable—especially for those receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. Local farmers markets are working with FSSA to change that. Today, SNAP benefits can be used at dozens of farmers markets around the state, including the Fort Ben Farmers Market in Lawrence.
Mandy Wright-Jarrett, director of Fort Ben Farmers Market, observed that allowing SNAP benefits to be used at the farmers market made perfect sense.
“Lawrence is a wonderful community, but it is also a fairly large food desert,” she explains. “Some in the area have to take two buses to get to the grocery, so allowing SNAP benefits to be used at our farmers market provides another opportunity to get fresh produce and other healthy food options like nuts, seeds, cheese, dairy products, meats and plants.”
Additionally, thanks to the Fresh Bucks program, sponsored by the Marion County Public Health Department, and other similar programs throughout the state, SNAP recipients are able to stretch their food resources even further. Fresh Bucks matches up to $20 per visit to the market, allowing recipients to buy even more fresh fruits and vegetables. In Bloomington, shoppers can double their SNAP dollars for purchases made at the Bloomington Community Farmers Market.
While access and affordability are the first hurdles, Wright-Jarrett says education is another one.
“Many are buying food they’ve not always had access to or been able to afford, but they aren’t sure how to cook these different foods,” she says. “Vendors are helping fill the gap. Many at the Original Farmers Market and Garfield Park Farmers Market have been providing recipes and giving cooking food demos. We have plans in the future to do the same at the Fort Ben Farmers Market.”
Giving as much as they get
One of the unexpected but exciting benefits of using SNAP benefits at farmers markets is that SNAP recipients are giving as much as they are receiving.
“I love to tell recipients that they are helping the community,” she says. “They are buying local and supporting local growers and farmers in our community. It’s real empowering for them to know they are giving back—it’s this big circle effect.”
Food insecurity is one of the greatest social needs in our state, directly impacting the health and well-being of countless Hoosiers. Food is one of life’s basic necessities. While access to affordable food is critical to all of us, the quality of our food also plays a significant role in our health. Access, affordability and education are all necessary components to safeguarding men, women and children who are at nutrition risk.