Grant 'doubles-up' SNAP, Senior Voucher benefits at farmers’ markets

May 4, 2012
Contact Information:

Heather Friedrich, Department of Horticulture
479-575-2798, heatherf@uark.edu

Lisa Netherland, Fayetteville Parks Department
479-444-3471 ext. 467; community gardens@ci.fayetteville.ar.us

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dustin langford

SNAP GARDEN -- Dustin Langford takes a break from working in the new SNAP Garden near the Walker Park Senior Center in Fayetteville. He is taking advantage of a "double-up" deal for SNAP and Senior Voucher purchases at farmers' markets to buy plants and seeds for his garden plot.
(Click on image to download full-resolution version.)

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- A $50,000 grant from the Walmart Foundation's Northwest Arkansas Giving Program is allowing farmers' market shoppers in Washington, Benton, Madison and Carrol counties to "double-up" on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Senior Voucher purchases up to $20 per market visit.

A project to promote farmers’ markets and healthy food choices among low-income residents by equipping markets with EBT (electronic benefit transfer) scanners was launched last summer by the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture and the Northwest Arkansas Farmers’ Market Alliance.

Heather Friedrich in the Division of Agriculture's horticulture department said some consumers with SNAP or Senior Voucher benefits may believe that food at farmers' markets is more expensive than at supermarkets. Receiving $40 worth of food for an expenditure of $20 in SNAP and Senior Voucher benefits per market visit removes that perceived obstacle, she said.

Though temporary, the financial incentive should encourage qualified shoppers to compare locally grown produce at farmers' markets to what they can buy at grocery stores while enjoying the community atmosphere and fun and educational activities, Friedrich said. "I have found that farmers' market prices can be competitive with supermarket prices on produce that is easily grown in this area at the height of the season," she added.

Dustin Langford, whose salary as an Arkansas Energy Corps/AmeriCorps worker qualifies him for nutrition assistance, said he welcomes the "double-up" offer for his SNAP benefits. He said he prefers to buy produce at the Fayetteville Farmers' Market, but based on his comparison of prices there and at a supermarket last summer, he determined that he could not afford to do so.

"I enjoy the farmers' market community atmosphere, I think the quality is better and I enjoy visiting with the local farmers and knowing that I am helping to support them," said Langford, a U of A graduate from Little Rock with a degree in landscape architecture.

In addition to produce, Langford also buys plants and seeds from the farmers' market for planting in the new SNAP Garden at Walker Park in Fayetteville. He and Lisa Netherland with the city parks department are coordinators of the garden project. It is part of a larger Feed Fayetteville and Sustainable Cities Institute program supported by the National Center for Appropriate Technology and a $500,000 grant from Home Depot.

Plants and seeds at the farmers' market were already priced competitively with those at stores, Langford said. "I think they are better quality, and I can talk to the farmers who grew the plants and seeds about how to manage them in my garden."

Garden plots are free to SNAP participants and are available to others for a nominal fee. The garden will be managed communally, the participants will share the produce, and any excess will be given away, Langford said.