A terrific program designed to help neighbors use their food stamps – SNAP – at local farmers markets has a wonderful benefit for all of us: the option to use our debit/credit cards at the same markets.
Fresh Access Food Bucks offers SNAP recipients a chance to redeem their benefits for tokens that can be used at the market. As a bonus, for every $5 they spend, they receive an addition $2 to spend at the market on fruits and vegetables (don’t even bother getting worked up that they might – god forbid – buy a pie or some cheese.)
Thanks to this SNAP program, the rest of us derive a benefit, too. We are able to purchase tokens at the Fresh Access table using our debit or credit cards with only a $1 fee. If you are like Ledcat and myself, you find yourself at the Farmers Market sans cash and realize the nearest ATM has a hefty surcharge. Spending $1 to buy tokens is a HUGE benefit to us (versus $4 or $5 in fees) and it is obviously much more convenient than trundling off to find the ATM.
Markets that are newly working with Fresh Access this year are the Citiparks market at the City-County Building, Downtown; Moon; Peters; and Wilkinsburg. Also participating are the Citiparks markets in Beechview, Carrick, North Side, South Side and Squirrel Hill; Bloomfield’s Saturday market; Lawrenceville; Market Square, Downtown; and Swissvale.
According to Just Harvest’s seminal 2013 report A Menu for Food Justice: Strategies for Improving Access to Healthy Foods in Allegheny County, nearly one in two Pittsburgh residents live in a community defined as a “food-desert” and do not have adequate access to fresh, healthy food. In some communities, farmers markets are one of the only sources of produce.
I really appreciate how much effort Just Harvest has invested in this initiative. It really is a win/win/win solution for SNAP recipients, the farmers and the general community. To learn more about Fresh Access, visit the Just Harvest website.