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Low-income customers get double dollars on fruits, veggies at St. Louis farmers markets

Low-income customers' dollars will get twice the value on money spent on fruits and vegetables at several local farmers markets.
Courtesy SNAP 2 It! Program, via St. Louis Farmers Market Association
Low-income customers' dollars will get twice the value on money spent on fruits and vegetables at several local farmers markets.

A new program at several local farmers markets will give low-income customers double the value for money spent on fruits and vegetables.

Under the St. Louis Farmers Market Association’s new “SNAP 2 It!” Program, recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, can get each dollar spent on these fresh foods matched. The program is modeled on others around the country that have been successful.

The goal, the association said, is to “improve the affordability and accessibility of healthy, local foods.” SNAP customers will be able to go to information booths at the markets where they can take a certain amount of money for fruits and vegetables off their SNAP cards and receive tokens for twice that amount to spend.

“When they come use their EBT card, we will match their money up to $20. They would run $10 or $20 off their card and we would give them (another) $10 or $20 to use at the market,” said Brian DeSmet, manager at the participating Schlafly Farmers Market.

In addition to Schlafly’s Bottleworks, the program is available at the Webster Groves Farmers Market, Cherokee Street Farmers Market, International Institute of St. Louis Global Farms, North City Farmers Market, and Tower Grove Farmers Market, as well as the Earth Dance booth at the Ferguson Farmers Market.

DeSmet said the farmers market association first focused a couple of years ago on getting more area farmers markets to accept SNAP, but found markets were seeing few SNAP customers.

By reducing the cost of farmers market products for low-income customers through the program, DeSmet said he hopes it will bring a “wider demographic” to spend dollars on these locally produced foods rather than at other stores with few healthy options.

“It’s also to increase money going back into our local food system,” he said. “All of this is extra money that our farmers wouldn’t be getting without this program. The EBT money might be coming to the farmers market if they take EBT, but we’re also doubling that…income they wouldn’t have had if they didn’t have this program.”

He also said the farmers market association is working with local community organizations, like the St. Louis Area Foodbank, to let SNAP recipients know about the program.

DeSmet said while the “fledgling” program this year has been funded by a grant from the Wholesome Wave Foundation using federal USDA Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) dollars, it will need more funds in the future to expand its reach to more markets. He said in the next week or two, the program’s website will have a link where people can donate.

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