Patrick-Murray Administration Announces Grant to Help Boston Farmers' Market Expand Services for Low Income Customers
The grant, to benefit the Community Servings/Jamaica Plain Farmers' Market, is one of 22 grants awarded to markets and organizations serving 16 communities across the state. Department of Agricultural Resources (DAR) Commissioner Scott Soares and the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) Commissioner Julia Kehoe attended the celebration of the Community Servings Jamaica Plain Farmers' Market to highlight the award.
"Making fresh local produce available to all Massachusetts residents brings healthy food to tables across the Commonwealth and supports our local agricultural industry," said Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) Secretary Ian Bowles, whose office includes DAR.
The grants, made possible by a partnership between the DAR and the DTA, are for the purchase or rental of wireless point-of-sale terminals capable of processing SNAP benefits through the Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) system. Grants also fund transaction fees, outreach programs for SNAP participants, promotional flyers and posters and incentives to encourage SNAP participants to use their benefits at Massachusetts farmers' markets.
As a result of DAR and DTA's cooperation, SNAP clients will be able to use their benefits at 54 markets in Massachusetts, up from 31 markets in 2009 - an increase of 71 percent. DAR works to foster a direct exchange between farmers and consumers, and increase access to local, healthy food statewide. By utilizing EBT machines, these markets have expanded the access to healthy foods within their communities.
"For residents, these grants provide a health benefit. For our farms, these grants get locally grown products to more consumers across the Commonwealth," said DAR Commissioner Scott Soares.
"In these challenging times, it is especially critical for agencies and community partners to collaborate on creative solutions," said DTA Commissioner Julia Kehoe. "Our work with the Department of Agricultural Resources is a perfect example. Expanding SNAP access at farmers' markets stimulates the economy, assists families with eating healthy on a tight budget, and brings business to local growers."
DTA provided the initial funding of $50,000 for the statewide grants. Additional funding was provided by the Wholesome Wave Foundation, based in Westport, Connecticut, and the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation.
SNAP serves more than 755,000 individuals in Massachusetts - one in nine residents of the Commonwealth - by assisting low-income individuals and families with purchasing healthy food. SNAP households access their benefits by using an EBT card that is similar to a debit card and is accepted at most grocery stores. This program is federally funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and serves as the first line of defense against hunger and poor nutrition.
Individuals, families with children, seniors, and people with disabilities who are having difficulty meeting their basic needs are encouraged to apply for SNAP by visiting www.mass.gov/dta, calling 1-866-950-FOOD, or visiting their local DTA office.
In recent years, the number of farmer's markets has more than doubled, from 101 markets in 2004 to 215 this season. Farmers' markets not only provide shoppers with fresh, healthy, locally grown farm products, they also create community gathering spaces in cities and towns across the state. By purchasing products directly from the farmer, customers have opportunities to learn more about the how the produce was grown, where it comes from, when it was picked, and often get helpful tips on how to prepare it.
DAR's mission is to ensure the long-term viability of local agriculture in Massachusetts. Through its four divisions - Agricultural Development, Animal Health, Crop and Pest Services, and Technical Assistance - the DAR strives to support, regulate and enhance the Commonwealth's agricultural community, working to promote economically and environmentally sound food safety and animal health measures, and fulfill agriculture's role in energy conservation and production. For more information, visit MDAR's website at www.mass.gov/agr and/or follow at twitter.com/mdarcommish.