Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Implementing Food Access Programs Seamlessly

By Neal Carr

Did you know that the Adams County Farm Fresh Markets accept EBT cards at all of our locations? If you’re not familiar with the acronym, EBT stands for Electronic Benefits Transfer and it refers to what some people may know more commonly as food stamps. Today, food stamps are obsolete and have been replaced with cards similar to credit or debit cards that hold funds electronically. These funds can buy any food items at the market, from healthy fruits and vegetables to hearty breads, jams and jellies, and even seedlings to grow food. At the farmers market, the Association has implemented an effortless system for cardholders to be able to use their benefits. When a cardholder approaches the centrally-located info table, market volunteers can slide their card through a small machine. The market volunteers type into the machine how much money the cardholder would like to spend at the market that day and a receipt is printed out.

Cardholders are then given red tokens equal to the amount they just took off their card. The red tokens are each equal to $1.00 and are accepted as cash at any vendor selling food products. These vendors include Five Points Farm, Swartz’s Pumpkin Patch, Boyer’s Nursery, Chapel Ridge Beef, Beevia Farms, Jo’s Bakery, Hilltop Farm Market, Round Barn Farm Market, and Wooly Boogers. Additionally, cardholders can save their red tokens for later trips to the farmers market if they do not spend them all in one day.

One of my favorite aspects of this great service we offer is the “Double Dollars” program. This program is offered to EBT cardholders and helps to augment their spending power at the market. Essentially, the program offers cardholders up to $10.00 in addition to the funds they spend at the market in a day. In other words, a cardholder can take out $10.00 from their EBT funds to spend at the market and receive an additional $10.00 from the “Double Dollars” program. “Double Dollars” is modeled after similar ventures at Fresh Farm Markets in Washington, DC and today the program is funded through the St. James Lutheran Church. Past sponsors of the program include Wellspan Health and Adams County Community Foundation.

The program has been seen as so successful that the idea is spreading to other farmers markets in the south central PA region, with the Adams County Farmers’ Market Association serving as a model for its replication at other markets. Providing these services has been hugely beneficial to both EBT cardholders and the farmers market and we are proud to offer such a vital service to our community members. Ensuring wide access to affordable and nutritious local produce helps keep our community well fed and healthy while bolstering the local economy. Please spread the word about our EBT services and “Double Dollars” program!

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