Now at 14 Locations, Offering Incentive Program
PITTSBURGH, PA — Beginning in May, shoppers using food stamps at farmers markets will be getting more bang for their buck. For every $5 a shopper spends using their food stamps at fourteen participating area farmers markets, they’ll receive an additional $2 coupon to spend on fruits and vegetables.
The coupons are called Food Bucks and will be available at 13 Fresh Access farmers markets in Allegheny County and one in Washington County. Fresh Access is the program that enables shoppers to use food stamps, credit and debit cards at participating markets.
Just Harvest, a local non-profit that works to eliminate hunger and poverty, launched Fresh Access at two Citiparks farmers markets in 2013, expanding to seven by the end of that market season. Before that, costly technological barriers effectively prohibited farmers market vendors from accepting food stamp benefits, barring the 160,000 recipients in Allegheny County from shopping there.
“We worked to make farmers markets accessible to shoppers using food stamps, because we believe everyone deserves access to healthy, fresh food. Now, we’re able to make sure that good food is more affordable,” says Ken Regal, Executive Director at Just Harvest.
According to Just Harvest’s seminal 2013 report A Menu for Food Justice: Strategies for Improving Access to Healthy Foods in Allegheny County, nearly one in two Pittsburgh residents live in a community defined as a “food-desert” and do not have adequate access to fresh, healthy food. In some communities, farmers markets are one of the only sources of produce.
Shoppers who want to use their food stamp, credit or debit card at the markets should look for the Just Harvest or market manager’s tent. There, they swipe their card and receive wooden tokens, which work like cash at the market and are redeemable with all participating vendors for eligible products. Food stamp shoppers will also receive a $2 Fresh Access Food Bucks coupon for every $5 they spend. Food Bucks can be used to purchase fruits and vegetables.
Funding for the Food Bucks program comes from the USDA Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive program in partnership with the Food Trust in Philadelphia. To see a list of the locations of the participating markets, visit www.justharvest.org/get-help/fresh-access/.