Letter to the Editor: Farmers Market Could Use Your Help

Photo: The Farmers Market
 
The Belmont Farmers’ Market and its parent organization, the Belmont Food Collaborative (BFC), have a food assistance program to help people in need. A big part of that is matching SNAP benefits at the Market (formerly called food stamps).

Each week, we match up to $25 of the amount that a SNAP shopper spends. For example, we’ll debit $20 from a shopper’s account and give $40 to spend on eligible products at the Market. This has been a very popular program, helping many households enjoy healthy, local products – we’ve matched over $12,000 since we started in 2011. 

SNAP matching has grown dramatically this year. So far, we’ve spent twice as much as we budgeted. To continue the program, we have been asking our supporters to help fund our food assistance programs with a donation at the BFC website. They’ve been very generous, allowing us to continue providing this important assistance.
 
This year, the Commonwealth began a new program called Healthy Incentives Program (HIP) for SNAP recipients. When SNAP shoppers buy fruits and vegetables from a participating vendor, the amount is immediately refunded to their account. (There is a monthly maximum, based on household size.) HIP only applies to fruits and vegetables, while SNAP applies to that, plus most of the rest of the products at the Market, such as meat, pasta, eggs, cheese, cookies, bread and more.
 
As one of our shoppers said recently, “Wow! That’s great.” And it is! These programs are a great way to help people eat fresh, local foods and support local agriculture at the same time.
 
Because HIP is new and SNAP has grown in popularity, we’ve written a brief handout to explain how they work at our Market. Volunteers have helped by translating it into Chinese and Russian, and we expect to have an Armenian version soon. Download the SNAP/HIP handouts on our website.
 
Shoppers get SNAP certificates at our Market Manager tent. For the HIP benefit, they can go right to a participating produce vendor. So far, Hutchins Farm is our only HIP vendor, but we expect that the others will be getting their card-swipe terminals from the Commonwealth very soon.
 
Many farmers’ markets match SNAP, but not all do. Boston no longer matches SNAP benefits; they’re encouraging shoppers to use HIP instead. We match state benefits and encourage our vendors to participate in HIP because food assistance is a big part of the mission of the Market’s parent organization, the Belmont Food Collaborative.
Our matching program also includes WIC and Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (FNMP) certificates. Another part of the BFC’s food assistance program is growing produce to donate to the Belmont Food Pantry (volunteers can help by watering and weeding).
Stop at the Manager’s tent for SNAP coupons, full details and answers to your questions. See you at the Market!
Hal Shubin
Chairperson of the Market Committee,
Belmont Food Collaborative, a 501(c)(3) organization, and the parent organization of the Belmont Farmers’ Market.
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Comments

  1. says

    Impressive support underway since 2011 for affordable, accessible healthy locally grown Massachusetts fruits and vegetables at Belmont Farmers Market.

    Gus Schumacher, Former Commissioner of Food and Agriculture

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