By, Teri Vance
Since the inception of the Third and Curry Streets Farmers Market nine years ago, organizer Linda Marrone has wanted customers to have the option to pay for produce through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps.
“Just like with anything else, we feel everyone deserves access to healthy fruits and vegetables,” Marrone said.
The original rules governing farmers markets limited SNAP participation to only those listed as nonprofits. However, those rules changed in the last two years.
But there were still obstacles to instituting the program.
“They allowed market managers to get their own SNAP machines and run the program,” Marrone explained. “The problem is most managers are so overwhelmed just managing the market.”
The solution came from Partnership Carson City, an umbrella organization dedicated to creating a healthier, drug-free community.
“Kathy (Bartosz, executive director of Partnership Carson City) has made it easy for us to do this,” Marrone said. “It’s a great program, but we couldn’t have done it without them.”
Partnership Carson City funded the card-swiping machines and provides a volunteer weekly to run the program.
“A part of Partnership Carson City’s mission is to foster a healthy community,” said Hannah McDonald, PCC community outreach coordinator. “What better way to foster a healthy community than to provide fruits and vegetables to families in need.”
The second obstacle was price.
“We met with other farmers market coalitions and they said you really have to have added value,” Marrone said. “So if you come to the farmers market and use your SNAP card, we double the value. For every SNAP dollar you spend, you get $2 worth of food.”
Rob Holley, of Holley Family Farms in Dayton, said he has sold a lot of meat to SNAP users.
“It provides opportunities for more people to enjoy the food and produce we have available,” Holley said. “It’s opened up the market as an option to a lot of different people. We like that.”
The market has been accepting SNAP cards for the past two summers, but collected the most swipes yet during July. Last week, the market also started accepting the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children — knows as WIC.
“A lot of it has to do with getting the word out,” Marrone said.
The farmers market runs 8:30 a.m.-1 p.m. every Saturday through Sept. 24.