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Food Stamps Could Purchase More at Farmer’s Market July 12, 2010

Posted by kbianews in KBIA.
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The Columbia Farmer's Market. (Photo by Laura Parkinson, KBIA)

Some families may soon be able to stretch the value of their food stamps at the Columbia Farmer’s Market. KBIA’s Maureen McCollum brings us this story.

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The Access to Healthy Foods Initiative is a way to help people afford fresh produce. It’s a collaboration by Sustainable Farms and Communities, PedNet, and the Columbia/Boone County Department of Public Health.

About 50 families will be selected to test the program through the Women, Infants, and Children Program, or WIC.

The Columbia Farmer’s Market has been accepting food stamps for years. But, due to the market’s higher prices, the credits can not buy as much as cheaper food. Sustainable Farms and Communities Executive Director Casey Corbin says he saw this as a problem.

“I don’t think people should be forced by our food system, or the way it currently is, to buy the lowest common denominator food, you know, junk.”

Corbin says farmers are already selling produce at the lowest prices possible to maintain a living wage. So, he says, Access to Healthy Foods was created to put more money in the pockets of those on food stamps.

It works like this: When a person goes to the Farmer’s Market and asks for $20 off their EBT card, they’ll get $40 in Farmer’s Market tokens. Corbin says some vendors have even thrown on additional discounts for program recipients, but this is not required. The vendors are then fully reimbursed for the food. Organizers are still developing the criteria for which WIC recipients will test this program.

The initial program will cost $25,000. Corbin says he hopes to bring in more money through donations over the years so more families can have access to healthy foods.

Sam Robinson is the Director of PedNet’s Healthy Community Initiative. He says recipients will meet with caseworkers regularly to asses the program. Robinson says the Access to Healthy Foods Initiative will offer more than doubled food stamps.

“Like nutritional literacy classes, or some budgeting classes on how to budget and spend money on healthy choices that will help your family long term.”

Organizers hope the program will cultivate permanent healthy choices in families. They say exposing children to fresh fruits and vegetables early causes them to actually like healthy foods at an early age. Corbin says this is a way to prevent health issues in the future.

“We’re able to address and target an audience that has higher rates of health issues due to poor nutrition and specifically target them and not only say, Hey, here’s a little bit better food,’ but say, Here’s the best food in town,’ and I think that’s something Columbia should be very proud of.”

Corbin says he hopes to have the Access to Healthy Foods Initiative running by the end of the month.

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