By Madison Jackson
Ensuring that fresh, local, and healthy foods are accessible to the local community is a top priority for farmers’ markets. Thankfully, there are various programs available that can help bridge the gap.
Year-round at the Saratoga Farmers’ Market’s Wednesday and Saturday markets, customers who own an EBT (Electronic Benefits Transfer) card can exchange their SNAP benefits for farmers’ market tokens to purchase fresh foods, including fruit and vegetables, bread and baked goods, meat, fish, and poultry, dairy products, honey and maple products, and value- added foods like soup mixes, sauces, and jams and jellies. Herb plants and plants that produce food are also approved purchases with EBT coins.
The market additionally offers two SNAP incentive programs between which customers can choose with each transaction to get the most bang for their buck. The FreshConnect program, run by New York State, offers an extra $2 coupon to spend on SNAP items for every $5 a customer spends with their EBT benefits. Double Up Food Bucks, administered by Field & Fork Network and new at the Saratoga Farmers’ Market this season, matches SNAP benefits dollar-for-dollar (up to $20 per market day) with extra tokens that can be spent on fruits, vegetables, and produce-bearing plants. FreshConnect runs year-round, while the Double Up Food Bucks season runs July through October.
More seasonally, the Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) is a New York State program that offers WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) participants and seniors coupons to purchase fresh fruit and vegetables at the farmers’ market. Our local WIC office distributes WIC coupons. Senior coupons will be distributed by the Saratoga County Office for the Aging on-site at the Saratoga market on Saturday, August 7th (9 am-1 pm) and Wednesday, August 11th (3-5 pm) at High Rock Park. The Office for the Aging will also distribute the coupons at the Clifton Park market on Monday, July 26th (2-5 pm) and Monday, August 16th (2-5 pm) at the Shenendehowa United Methodist Church. Individuals aged 60+ who live on a limited income may pick up a booklet of coupons containing 5 $4.00 coupons (limit one per person).
To spend your WIC or Senior FMNP coupons at the market, look for the blue poster at participating vendors’ stalls or simply stop by the market information table for a complete list of farms accepting FMNP coupons. The FMNP season runs from June through October, after which unused coupons expire.
Utilizing the available nutrition assistance programs is a win-win-win situation. Low-income consumers have more access to healthy foods, local farmers gain income and connect with new customers, and more food dollars stay in the local economy.
This week’s recipe: Summer Vegetable Stir Fry