SNAP use at farmers markets has more than tripled in recent years, seeing a 239 percent increase in dollars spent from 2011 through 2013. The gain follows efforts by the Minnesota Department of Human Services and its partners to make it more convenient and cost effective to use Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards at markets.
"Families make healthy choices when fresh, nutritious food is affordable and easy to access. For more and more Minnesotans, that's as simple as visiting the farmers market in their community," said Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson. Jesson participated in a healthy cooking demonstration at the West Broadway Farmers Market in Minneapolis today during National Farmers Market Week. "In addition to promoting healthy choices, SNAP use at farmers markets promotes a healthy economy, as every dollar in SNAP benefits spent generates $1.80 in economic activity."
The West Broadway Farmers Market is one of 65 markets in the state participating in the EBT and Market Bucks Initiative this growing season with help from DHS and the Center for Prevention at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota.
Funding supports the additional staffing required at each market to enable customers to debit their EBT cards in exchange for tokens that can be used to purchase food from market vendors. Market Bucks, a special incentive from Blue Cross, matches EBT card purchases with up to an additional $5 in bonus coupons each market day. Market Bucks can be used during the same trip or anytime during the 2014 market season on SNAP-eligible purchases, which include fresh fruits and vegetables and other healthy products of farm and field.
The West Broadway Business and Area Coalition, which operates the market in north Minneapolis, is also working to spread awareness of the program. Under contract with DHS, the coalition is providing marketing and outreach for 30 farmers markets in the Twin Cities metro area so that more residents know they can use EBT cards at farmers markets and stretch their dollars further with Market Bucks.
Visit z.umn.edu/farmersmarkets to see a map of farmers markets across Minnesota that are participating in the 2014 EBT and Market Bucks Initiative. For more information about SNAP, contact county social service agencies or call the Minnesota Food HelpLine at 1-888-711-1151.