Officials Say More People Are Spending Their Benefits On Fresh, Local Foods
By Hope Kirwan
More farmers markets are accepting food stamps than ever before in Wisconsin.
In 2008, six Wisconsin farmers markets accepted payment through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as SNAP. Eight years later, there are 144 markets and farms participating in the program.
U.S. Department of Agriculture Deputy Undersecretary Katie Wilson said allowing SNAP recipients to shop at farmers markets lets low-income families participate in a new food movement.
“There’s a style of eating now that people are looking at and are interested in and it includes healthier products, better choices and locally produced food,” Wilson said. Wilson also said low-income families are just as interested in shopping at farmers markets as those who don’t need assistance.
“We’ve done some studies as to the healthy food index as far as SNAP recipients versus anybody that’s not on SNAP and it’s very close,” Wilson said. “They’re buying the same kinds of foods. They want their family to be as healthy as anybody else wants.”
Wilson said the USDA is working to increase SNAP redemption at farmers markets, bringing in new revenue for market vendors.
“Farmers have a wider customer base, they provide wonderful fresh food for people which gives people a healthier base line to their diet. So we see a real win-win for everybody,” Wilson said.
Last year, SNAP recipients spent almost $250,000 at farmers markets. Wilson said more non-profits are providing dollar for dollar matching, increasing the amount of healthy food SNAP recipients can take home.
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