Perusing your local farmers market on a sunny Saturday morning you may be filled with profuse Portland-pride. “Man I’m glad I live here,” you remark. Well, be even more gratified, as a new study, Real Food, Real Choice: Connecting SNAP Recipients with Farmers Markets, put out by Community Food Security Coalition (CFSC) and Farmers Market Coalition (FMC) shows that Oregon has the highest percent of farmers markets that accept SNAP and EBT cards (formally known as food stamps).
Farmers markets bring fresh and local produce to neighborhoods that are underserved by grocery stores. By providing a venue for direct sales, a diversity of sustainably raised seasonal food and the infrastructure for SNAP/EBT usage, farmers markets can play a key role in ensuring access and affordability of healthy food for all.
Out of 115 farmers markets across the state in 2009, the report found that 47 of them have the ability to accept food assistance benefits. The stats get even better when honing in on Portland, home to 20 farmers markets (and more budding on the horizon), almost all of which accept Oregon Trail cards. Farmers markets have become so abundant in the metro area that in 2007, three percent of all fruit and vegetable sales in Multnomah County were spent at farmers markets.
Last year, EBT purchases at Portland Farmers Market’s six locations accounted for thirty percent of state-wide EBT sales. This season, they are on the way to surpassing last year’s record—over $50,000 have been spent using EBT cards—and the season is only half way through.
At the Hollywood Market, EBT and debit token usage has increased by around thirty from last year and customer counts are been high. Bonus dollar or matching programs have made it even more worthwhile for low- income families to patronize local markets.
“Unfortunately, more and more Americans are on SNAP benefits,” Mona Johnson of Portland Farmers Markets says, “but on the positive side, more and more people are choosing to spend their money on fresh food.”
Next week happens to be National Farmers Market Week (August 1-7). Whether you’re on food stamps or not, get out there, enjoy the nice weather, and celebrate and support your local farmers market!