Got a SNAP card? Get double your money at Farmers Market in Detroit Lakes
It’s a deal as sweet as honey: Spend $10 in SNAP money and get $20 worth of Market Buck tokens to buy edible products at the market.
No one appreciates good veggies, fruits, preserves and baked goods more than the people selling them at the farmers market, and they don’t want money to stand in the way of flavorful, healthy eating.
That’s why the Lakes Area Farmers Market in Peoples Park in Detroit Lakes has embraced a new program that lets customers double their SNAP (formerly food stamp) dollars at the farmers market.
It’s a deal as sweet as honey: Spend $10 in SNAP money and get $20 worth of Market Buck tokens to buy edible products at the market. The Market Bucks match program is run through Hunger Solutions Minnesota.
“This is the magic ticket that makes low-income families comfortable coming here, it removes the stigma of EBT,” said Marilyn Hofland, a Snap-Ed educator with the University of Minnesota Extension Service, who was manning the EBT-token booth Tuesday at the Detroit Lakes farmers market.
The program helps support better health and allows families to stretch their food dollars to buy locally grown produce they might not normally afford, all while supporting local farmers, she said. SNAP customers should check in at the EBT booth at the farmers market to get tokens and matching Market Bucks.
The program is being funded with help from an Essentia Health grant. The idea is to handle all the Snap-EBT transactions at the token booth, freeing up vendors not to worry about special equipment and procedures. “We needed a third party, so the vendors can focus on growing and selling,” Hofland said.
So Mahube-Otwa Community Action Partnership stepped in to be that third party -- handling SNAP outreach, collecting tokens and paying the vendors at the farmers market, and taking responsibility for the new EBT card reader at the EBT-token booth, Hofland said.
All kids get a free $2 token with every visit
And all kids ages 4 to 16, regardless of income, can get a free $2 token good for fruits and veggies, every time they show up at the farmers market.
It’s called the Power of Produce (PoP) Club. Those different-colored tokens are also available at the EBT booth at the farmers market, which is actually a sort of all-purpose booth. Cooking classes are also held there, for example, and people who attend the cooking classes will get $10 to use at the Farmers Market, and other gifts.
The token system works well for farmers market vendors, said Kelsey Haugdahl, manager of Haugdahl farm, a three-acre garden farm near Henning. “It’s basically like they’re paying with cash,” she said.
When vendors at the farmers market wrap it up for the day, their tokens are collected and recorded by the EBT-token booth employee. The vendors get paid in a lump sum, by either direct deposit or a check, at the end of the month.
Lane Lipetzky, owner of Lane’s Leaves, is relatively new at the Farmers Market, but is excited to be part of the Market Bucks program. She planned to sign up for the direct deposit option.
By doubling the purchase power of SNAP dollars, and making those dollars easy to use at the farmers market, “we can make the market as a whole comfortable to families,” Hofland said.
The Market Bucks program is operating this season at many farmers markets across Minnesota, which is the first state in the nation to fund a farmers market incentive program, Hofland said. As a bonus, those federal and state dollars will give a little boost to the local economy, she added.
Attend a cooking class, get $10 free
Anyone interested in learning about how farmers markets help increase healthy food options, and help to stretch food dollars, is invited to an informative one hour class called Cooking Matters at the Farmers Market.
The first class of the season will be 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Saturday, July 1. Each class attendee will receive $10 to spend that day at the market, as well as a reusable shopping bag, and a cutting board. Additional classes will be held in August and September. Registration is required, call Hofland at (218) 639-9583.
These programs are possible through a collaboration with the Lakes Area Farmers Market, Mahube-Otwa Community Action Partnership, Essentia Health, and the University of Minnesota SNAP-Ed Program.
Wondering if you are eligible for SNAP benefits? Call Mahube-Otwa at 218-847-1385.
The Lakes Area Farmers Market at 1337 Rossman Ave. is open each Tuesday and Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., with a great variety of seasonal produce, baked goods, meats, and eggs.