ST. PAUL, Minn. – As many farmers’ markets across the state open for the season this weekend, more Minnesota families will have access to fresh, locally grown food. Several markets will now accept payment from the federal food support program, or “food stamps,” thanks to a joint effort between state agencies, farmers’ markets and local foundations.
Minnesota Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson explains that technology has previously been a challenge for farmers’ markets in accepting the debit cards used by food-stamp recipients.
“Our Minnesota Department of Agriculture is working with the markets so many of them can get wireless card readers. While it will differ a little bit depending on what market someone goes to, having these readers is going to make everything easier, both for the sellers as well as for the people purchasing the food.”
Thirteen markets across the state will accept food stamps. Some, including Midtown in Minneapolis and downtown Rochester, offer matching dollar incentives so that food support recipients can increase their purchasing power, Jesson says. Based on the calls they’re getting, she says that by the end of 2011 there may be dozens of farmers’ markets accepting food stamps.
While this is great news for all Minnesotans who rely on food support, says Colleen Moriarty, executive director of Hunger Solutions Minnesota, it’s especially important for seniors to have access to fresh produce.
“We know that the better nutrition they have, the better their medication works, the longer they can stay in their homes, the lower their health-care costs are, so it’s really a multiplier benefit for the community and to the people who are using SNAP.”
Jesson says more low-income Minnesotans now are eligible for food support.
“We eliminated the asset limit for food support, and increased the income limit. So folks that didn’t think they were eligible for this important program may now be eligible. So I want to just get the word out to people about that, especially now as they can use those dollars to shop at farmer’s markets.”
For more information and to find out whether you qualify, call the Minnesota Food Helpline at 1-888-711-1151. A list of participating farmers’ markets is online at mfma.org.