SISTERS, Ore. (KTVZ) -- A partnership between Sisters Farmers Market, Seed to Table Oregon and the Roundhouse Foundation is putting fresh food on the table for folks wanting to improve access to healthy sources of nutrition. Market Manager Caroline Hager says a Roundhouse Foundation grant funded efforts to launch the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) at the market this season.
SNAP is a federal nutrition assistance program. It provides benefits to eligible low-income individuals and families via an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card. EBT cards can be used like debit cards to purchase eligible goods in authorized retail food stores, including most farmers markets around the country.
So far, the 2021 Market has had over $1,000 of currency redeemed by shoppers using SNAP. An additional grant program, Double Up Food Bucks (DUFB), has helped to double customer benefits dollar-to-dollar, so $10 becomes $20 to buy locally grown fruits and vegetables.
Last year, Seed to Table offered a COVID-19 Food For All discount to ensure access to fresh produce for shoppers with dwindling food budgets. “After seeing the benefit of the discount in 2020, we learned more about the food needs in the community,” said Hager. “Based on that, we decided to join many other farmers markets and begin accepting SNAP.”
Taking on management of Sisters Farmers Market in 2019, Seed to Table hired Hager to improve and enhance the weekly event to reflect community needs and input. With five more Markets remaining this season, Hager wants to make sure everyone has the chance to include local produce and other healthy food products in their diets. “There’s still opportunities to use SNAP benefits to get the most out of the growing season,” said Hager.
COVID-19 has taken a toll on consumers and producers alike. Hager says market vendors are committed to supporting their communities through this time.
“Even with challenges surrounding the drought and pandemic, local farmers and producers have been stepping up to provide consistent, reliable sources of food for Market shoppers. The vendors show up each week, making sure even the most vulnerable community members have access to locally sourced food that hasn’t traveled through as many hands and delivery systems,” said Hager.
Approximately half of the weekly vendors are eligible to accept SNAP, and through the program they are gaining awareness of food needs in the community too. “Vendors have been happy to accept SNAP and participate in helping their neighbors. Becoming more accessible gives increased reach and income stream for small-batch producers,” added Hager.
Some of the people being served are seniors, families and houseless folks in the area. “It reaches a wide range of individuals, and there’s no reason for any kind of stigma around it,” said Hager. “My hope is that people don’t have any hesitation around accessing fresh food. We want people to know this is an option and we’re here to help.”
For information about SNAP and how to apply, visit https://www.sistersfarmersmarket.com/snap, or stop by the Information Booth at the Sisters Farmers Market on Sundays.