Shopping farmer’s markets with SNAP benefits gains steam

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Fresh fruits and vegetables grown right here in Minnesota are a staple of farmer’s markets, so allowing low-income consumers to use their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program vouchers to purchase fresh, healthy foods at the markets makes sense, according to Rep. Sarah Anderson (R-Plymouth).

Anderson sponsors HF352, which would appropriate $2 million in the next biennium to create the “Healthy eating, here at home” grant program. Nonprofit organizations could apply for grants to work with Minnesota-based farmer’s markets to provide $10 vouchers to SNAP participants who use their electronic benefits transfer card to make healthy purchases.

The bill was laid over by the House Health and Human Services Finance Committee Wednesday for possible omnibus bill inclusion. SF316, a companion sponsored by Sen. Jeff Hayden (DFL-Mpls), is scheduled for a March 18 hearing by the Senate Finance Committee.

Grocery stores could also accept vouchers for the purchase of fresh fruits and vegetables if a federal waiver is obtained from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“This is something I strongly support,” said Rep. Rod Hamilton (R-Mountain Lake), chair of the House Agriculture Finance Committee.

Pilot programs have proved successful and now it’s time to expand the program statewide, said Colleen Moriarity, executive director of Hunger Solutions Minnesota. The program could help up to 495,000 SNAP participants, Moriarity said.

Shopping at farmer’s markets is a great way to socially engage in the community while supporting local agriculture, she added.

[See originl piece here: http://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/sessiondaily/SDView.aspx?StoryID=5582]