According to the Farmers Market Coalition (FMC), the USDA partnered with them to provide eligible farmers markets and direct marketing farmers with the equipment necessary to accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits—formerly known as the Food Stamps Program.
These benefits can be used to purchase food at grocery stores, convenience stores, and some farmers markets and co-op food programs. SNAP benefits are given each month on a plastic card called an EBT (electronic benefits transfer) card, which works like a debit card.
FMC also states that SNAP provides over 45 million low-income Americans with monthly benefits that can be used to purchase most foods and beverages. Each year, program participants spend roughly $70 billion in SNAP benefits, including more than $22.4 million at farmers markets in 2017. While SNAP helps low-income Americans purchase food, the program also supports farmers and farmers markets in all 50 states.
Enter the Shepherdstown Farmers Market—which began in the early 1990s, and has been humming along ever since. In fact, it’s West Virginia’s longest-running market, taking place every Sunday, from 9am-1pm, from late March through December on South King Street directly behind the Shepherdstown Public Library downtown.
Market Association President, Natalie Friend, said, “The SNAP Buck is a program in which SNAP recipients can swipe their SNAP card and double their money at the Shepherdstown Farmers Market. The ‘matching funds’ are good for fruits and vegetables, and comes from grant money.”
The “Bucks” come in different colors. The Yellow SNAP Buck can be used for eggs, dairy, bread, jams, meats, fruits, honey, and vegetables—just like at a grocery store. The difference is that products at the farmers market are produced locally. The “matching funds” are green and can only be used for fruits and vegetables. The idea is to encourage SNAP participants to purchase more fruits and vegetables, which benefits both the SNAP recipient, as well as the local businesses.
“I personally benefit from this program because this is money I would otherwise not have access to to operate my small business,” emphasized Friend. “Only the SNAP recipient can spend this money with my business. There is an additional program in which the SNAP dollar can be tripled with what is called the SNAP Stretch Dollar. We look forward to applying for that program in the future to better serve our customers.”
While many markets close during the fall, the Shepherdstown market features many products that are produced all year, like meat, eggs, cheese, dried flower arrangements, and wreaths.
“Our market features a caterpillar and butterfly exhibit weekly,” noted Friend. “Enthusiasts can follow along with the seasons, the stages of the butterflies, and other pollinators. Each week, we have live music and vendors who are always excited to share the best of what the seasons have to offer. We really love being a part of our customers’ week.”
For more information, visit the above link, and to find out more about SNAP, click here.By Robin Murphy