BY VANESSA CAREERS | EDIBLE SARASOTA
It’s a “SNAP” to support Florida-grown produce at the Englewood Farmers’ Market.
Produce vendors at the market accept SNAP—short for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly called food stamps. Now, with help from the organization Florida Organic Growers, SNAP users can stretch their food dollars with a program called Fresh Access Bucks. Under Fresh Access Bucks, SNAP participants swipe their EBT card and receive double the amount they spend, up to $20, to spend on Florida-grown fruits and vegetables.
With Fresh Access Bucks, Florida farmers get a revenue boost and SNAP participants have a more affordable way to eat healthy food. Statewide, the program is expected to boost Florida farmer revenue by $580,000 over the next two years, according to Florida Organic Growers.
The busy Englewood market has had the program since fall 2014, says Market Manager Lee Perron (see sidebar for other local farmers’ markets that accept SNAP). “We’ve been one of the top markets in the program, which shows you the percentage of need here,” he says.
Yet the market decided to ramp up its involvement with monthly cooking demonstrations that feature market-to-table recipes.
The first demonstration, held in January in partnership with the UF/IFAS Extension Family Nutrition Program (the program that administers SNAP) and Fresh Access Bucks, featured David Bearl, an American Culinary Federation—certified chef. Bearl made a fruit salad, salmon dish, and vegetarian quesadillas. “People loved it,” Perron says.
The demonstration is part of a continuing Florida Organic Growers series called Eat With the Seasons. The cooking demonstrations are taking place this year at 24 markets across the state that partner with the Family Nutrition Program to accept SNAP.
The program was so successful in Englewood that the market will continue cooking demonstrations on the third Thursday of each month through the rest of the season, Perron says.
The chefs in the program are given money to buy ingredients at the market and then prepare their item onsite. “The recipes act as a shopping list for people at the market,” Perron says.
The Englewood Farmers’ Market is held on Thursday mornings from October to May, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the 300 block of W. Dearborn Street. Learn more at englewoodfarmersmarket.org
OTHER MARKETS PARTICIPATE IN SNAP
In addition to Englewood Farmers’ Market, five other local markets are stretching food dollars for SNAP participants. Local markets that accept SNAP are Bradenton Farmers’ Market, Central Sarasota Farmers’ Market, Englewood Farmers’ Market, North Port Farmers’ Market, Punta Gorda Farmers’ Market, and Venice Farmers’ Market.
Venice Farmers’ Market Manager Linda Wilson regularly visits local nonprofit groups and food distribution centers to let people know they can come to her market and use SNAP to eat healthy food and support Florida farmers. “Our market is open year-round, and people have to eat year-round,” she says.
“SNAP is a win-win program designed to help the small Floridian farmer as well as those less fortunate on food stamps,” says Jerry Presseller, manager of both the North Port and Punta Gorda markets.