Patrick-Murray Administration Announces Grants to Assist Low-Income Residents at Farmers' Markets
New Partnership Creates Unique Service Opportunities for SNAP Participants at Community Farmers' Markets
Department of Agricultural Resources (DAR) Commissioner Scott Soares and Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) Commissioner Julia Kehoe joined local officials at the Central Square Farmers Market in Cambridge to highlight the award. The organizer of the Central Square and Davis Square/Somerville markets, Mass Farmers Markets (MFM) - a non-profit organization that promotes and supports farmers markets across the state, received a $2,000 grant.
"These grants will assure that all citizens of the Commonwealth, regardless of their economic situation, have access to healthy, farm-fresh products grown right here in the state," said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Richard K. Sullivan Jr.
The grants, made possible by a partnership between the DAR and the DTA, were designed 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 recipients will be able to use their benefits at 79 farmers' markets in Massachusetts this season - up from 59 markets in 2010, an increase of 34 percent. By utilizing EBT machines, these markets have expanded access to healthy foods within their communities. Due to last year's grants and expansion, SNAP sales at Massachusetts farmers' markets increased to $116,813 from $19,119 in 2009.
"We are very pleased that so many farmers' markets across the Commonwealth will be able to accept EBT SNAP benefits this summer," said DAR Commissioner Soares. "An increasing number of market organizers are reaching out to SNAP participants and making their markets accessible to all."
SNAP serves more than 810,000 individuals in Massachusetts - one in eight 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.
"I am proud of our work with DAR to expand SNAP access at farmers' markets. By working together with community partners, we can improve access to healthy foods for low-income individuals and families while supporting local growers," said DTA Commissioner Kehoe.
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/vg/selfservice, calling 1-866-950-FOOD, or visiting their local DTA office.
DAR provided the initial funding of $42,981 for the statewide grants, with additional funding given by DTA and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation.
"Harvard Pilgrim is pleased to support the ongoing efforts of the Commonwealth and Mass Farmers Markets to make sure access to local fruits and vegetables easy and affordable for everyone," said Karen Voci, Executive Director of the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation.
DTA is continuing its collaboration this year with DAR by piloting a community service program at farmers' markets. DTA clients receiving cash benefits through the Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC) are meeting their work participation requirements and gaining valuable employment experience by volunteering as SNAP Farmers' Market Ambassadors at several Boston area farmers' markets. As Ambassadors, clients assist with administering EBT, help promote the use of SNAP at farmers' markets to eligible individuals and target communities, and assist market managers with general market duties.
For this new pilot, local DTA offices screened potential applicants while DAR and DTA recruited farmers' market managers, matched potential ambassadors with markets and provided training to market managers and ambassadors on the program, including how to operate the EBT machine and how to maintain proper records. The Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority generously provided 17 Charlie Cards to assist market ambassadors traveling to and from market destinations. SNAP Ambassadors are currently working at the following eight farmers' markets: Allston, Boston City Hall Plaza and Dewey Square, Hyde Park, Mattapan, Mission Hill, South Boston and Quincy.
"Americans in general are reconnecting with the idea that 'we are what we eat' and that fruits and vegetables are tasty prescriptions for better health. Making healthy food choices available for everyone is simply sound public policy. Mass Farmers Markets is pleased to partner with all of the organizations, individuals, and government agencies who make it possible," said Jeff Cole, Executive Director of Mass Farmers Markets.
"The Massachusetts programs played a significant role in our recent release of our national data collected from 116 markets, which clearly indicate there is demand for healthful, locally grown fruit and vegetables in underserved urban and rural communities," said Michel Nischan, President of the Connecticut based Wholesome Wave Foundation. "The data also prove that incentive programs significantly increase SNAP and WIC benefit redemption at farmers markets, thus increasing healthy food consumption in disadvantaged communities. The community impact in the form of good will and commerce is undeniable and, frankly, very exciting."
In recent years, the number of farmers' markets has more than doubled from 101 markets in 2004, to 241 currently up and running 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. To find farmers' markets in your area, go to http://www.mass.gov/agr/massgrown/farmers_markets.htm
2011 SNAP/EBT Grants
|Allston Village Main Streets:||$2,000|
|Amherst Farmers' Markets:||$3,000|
|Belmont Food Collaborative:||$2,000|
|Bernardston Farmers' Market:||$750|
|Boston Public Market Association:||$2,000|
|Cape Ann Farmers' Markets:||$750|
|Chelsea Neighborhood Developers:||$1,000|
|Community Servings/Jamaica Plain:||$1,000|
|Concerned Citizens of Mason Square:||$1,750|
|Concerned Citizens for Springfield/Forest Park:||$1,250|
|Dedham Square Circle:||$1,000|
|Harvard University Hospitality and Dining Services:||$3,000|
|Hilltown Community Development Corporation:||$2,000|
|Greenfield Farmers' Market:||$1,000|
|La Communidad, Inc, Everett:||$2,000|
|Mass Farmers' Markets:||$2,000|
|Medford Farmers' Market:||$2,000|
|Mid-Cape Farmers' Market/Hyannis:||$1,750|
|Northampton and Florence Farmers' Markets:||$2,500|
|Orleans Farmers' Market, Inc:||$1,900|
|Plymouth Farmers' Markets:||$3,000|
|Revere Beach Partnership:||$2,000|
|Roslindale Village Main Street:||$1,000|
|Sally Frank Farmers' Market/Melrose:||$1,500|
|Shape Up Somerville:||$1,000|
|South Hadley Farmers' Market:||$1,000|
|St. Marks Area Main Street/Dorchester:||$750|
|The Food Project/Lynn:||$2,000|
|Union Square Main Streets/Somerville:||$1,000|
|Worcester/Main South and Great Brook Valley:||$2,000|
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 DAR's website at www.mass.gov/agr, and/or follow at twitter.com/mdarcommish