Shoppers stroll through the Englewood Farmers Market last April. The Englewood and Venice farmers markets now accept benefit cards from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for purchases of fresh fruit and vegetables.
STAFF PHOTO / MIKE LANG
The connection seems like a natural: participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as food stamps) and fresh-produce vendors at farmers markets.
SNAP recipients could have access to healthy fruits and vegetables — many of them locally grown and/or organic — and vendors could expand their customer base.
Further sweetening the deal is the fact that the Florida Department of Agriculture sponsors a program that matches the benefit recipients’ expenditures dollar for dollar, up to $20.
Two Southwest Florida farmers markets — in Venice and Englewood — are already accepting SNAP cards and participating in the state-sponsored program, the Herald-Tribune’s Christi Womack reported Saturday.
The programs at the Venice and Englewood markets provide low-income residents with healthy choices while doubling their buying power through the state-sponsored plan, called Fresh Access Bucks. In addition, volunteers lead market tours and offer advice on preparing meals.
Given the 11, at last count, from Palmetto to Englewood — we hope others join the program.
Fortunately, other markets are planning to do just that.
The Sarasota Farmers Market — one of the first and the largest in the region — is considering implementing the SNAP program, Executive Director Phil Pagano told us Monday. Some individual vendors at the market already accept the SNAP cards, called Electronic Benefits Transfers, Pagano said.
“We are in conversations with the Manatee County Department of Health on how to proceed in a way that makes nutritious food more available,” Isham said in an email, “as well as education features and cooking demos to support healthy eating habits.”
The participation of the Sarasota and Bradenton farmers markets would be especially important, given their downtown locations and convenience to many beneficiaries of the SNAP and Fresh Access Bucks programs.
Fresh fruits and vegetables, made accessible and affordable to families in need, and provided by local vendors: That sounds like a recipe for success in any community.
The Bradenton Farmers Market is also interested in participating in the SNAP program, said Johnette Isham, executive director of Realize Bradenton, which operates the market.