Eno River Farmers Market will now accept SNAP benefits as a form of payment, thanks to a new effort to bring food-insecure populations to the market.
“We always want to have more people at the market,” Lynne Millies, the market’s assistant manager, said. “It’s more expensive than a regular grocery store, so with this we are looking to attract those clients who might not come to the market due to this price point that they cannot afford.”
The SNAP, or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, is a federal program that provides nutrition benefits to low-income individuals and families that are used to purchase food. SNAP benefits are accessed through an EBT card.
At the Eno River Farmers Market, market staff will swipe customers’ EBT cards and ask customers what amount they would like to have available for the market, then SNAP shoppers will receive tokens that represent the total amount requested for the market.
“This plan is good for consumers because they can access some higher quality options, but it also brings in more sales for farmers and helps bring in the widest possible client base,” Rich Mason, one of the owner-operators of Honeybee Hills Farm in Caswell, said. “Plus, we only deal with the tokens and the paperwork is taken care of so it’s an easy exchange.”
Currently, SNAP shoppers can participate in the “double buck” program thanks to a grant received by an Eno River Farmers Market sister organization, Friends of the Market. With the grant, the amount requested by SNAP benefits users will be doubled by the market — e.g., a shopper requesting $10 will receive $20 in tokens.
The tokens do not expire and can be reused at the market if shoppers have a surplus. The tokens may be used to purchase produce, baked goods and other food items that are not hot or ready to eat. Non-food items such as handmade pottery or CBD products are not able to be purchased with SNAP benefits.
Along with the new addition of the Hillsborough market, Caswell Farmers Market already accepts SNAP benefits, and Millies said that, moving forward, the goal is to expand into more markets in the area.
“We are focusing on expanding and would love to work with other markets in the area — in Durham and elsewhere,” she said. “We just want to see people come and try this because the main push is to help those who might not be able to access this food.”