About 13% of Western Mass. residents are food insecure, a rate higher than any other food bank service area in the state.
By Ian Jakus, Food Bank SNAP Coordinator
This week is National Farmers Market Week, and there’s been a lot of talk about the nationwide movement toward increasing access to local food by accepting SNAP (food stamps) at farmers’ markets. Your local market could be one of them (find a list of Western Mass. farmers markets that accept SNAP here).
If a market accepts SNAP, recipients need only look for the table where workers will change their benefits into tokens that can then be used to buy food products at the market. These workers can also swipe any credit/debit cards in exchange for tokens which are accepted by all vendors. For the farmers it can mean new customers, for the customers it means added convenience and access to healthy and delicious farm-fresh food.
Many markets go a step further and offer an incentive for using SNAP. This might be called “double SNAP” or “double food stamps.” Usually this means you get double your money (up to a certain amount) when using SNAP at the farmers market. For instance, if you spend $10 then you would get an additional $10 for a total of $20 worth of fresh fruit and vegetables. The economic impact of SNAP in local economies can be significant; every $5 in new SNAP benefits generates a total of $9.20 in community spending. The incentive program multiplies this effect, helping not only the customer and the farmer, but also to the local economy. Many more markets would like to provide this incentive, but do not have the funding yet. As the practice increases in popularity new grants and other sources of funding will become more readily available.
This program could help you or someone you know, so spread the word. Many senior citizens qualify for at least the minimum amount of SNAP, and even the minimum benefits can get you a lot at a farmers market that offers double SNAP.
Thousands of individuals and working families receive SNAP in Western Mass., and it can go a long way to increasing food security and encouraging good nutrition. If you’re not sure if you or someone you know qualifies for SNAP benefits, The Food Bank can help. Call 413-247-9738 and ask about SNAP.
 Hanson, Kenneth, and Elise Golan (2002). Effects of Changes in Food Stamp Expenditures Across the U.S. Economy. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service. Available at http://www.ers.usda. gov/publications/fanrr26/fanrr26-6/ fanrr26-6.pdf. Note: The economic effect of increasing food stamp benefits was measured for the whole U.S. economy and may vary by location.
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