The Mountain Times

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Vermonters of all incomes can access farmers’ markets

EBT users can double their money with Harvest Health coupons

Vermont recently took the top spot in the 2013 Localvore Index meaning it has the highest number of farmers markets, food hubs, and CSA programs per capita in all 50 states and District of Columbia. As part of the effort to ensure that all Vermonters have access to local foods and to ensure farmers' a bigger customer base, 45 farmers' market sites in Vermont-more farmers' markets than ever before-now accept 3SquaresVT benefits via Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards.

Erin Buckwalter, direct marketing and food access coordinator at the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont, says, "3SquaresVT brings over $12 million into the state each month. Increasing 3SquaresVT purchases at farmers' markets allows farmers and other local businesses to capture more of these federal resources." As word spreads about EBT availability at markets, more Vermonters take advantage of the option and markets see the economic benefit.

In 2012 markets did almost $70,000 in 3SquaresVT/EBT sales.

Currently, over 100,000 Vermonters, or 1 in 6, receive 3SquaresVT.

"Every spring I hear from participants who want to be able to buy healthy, local food. Increasing access to farmers' markets allows them the opportunity to buy high quality, affordable food for their families and support their local farmers and community at the same time. It's a win-win for everyone," said Angela Smith-Dieng, 3SquaresVT advocacy manager at Hunger Free Vermont.

To help Vermonters stretch their food budget and encourage new customers to try out the market, most markets that welcome 3SquaresVT via EBT cards will also be offering "Harvest Health" coupons beginning in July. For every dollar EBT customers spend at the market, they will receive a dollar match in coupons up to $10 per market day. This year's Harvest Health incentive project is funded by the Vermont Specialty Crop Block Grant Program and the Vermont Legislature through the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets, along with Green Mountain Coffee Roasters and the Wholesome Wave Foundation.

Seven years ago, there were no markets that accepted EBT cards. This year over half of all markets in the state are welcoming the benefits (visit vermontfoodhelp.com for a map and listing).

The work to expand EBT at farmers' markets has been a collaborative effort, led by the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont, along with the Vermont Department for Children and Families, Hunger Free Vermont, UVM Extension, and the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, providing funding, technical assistance and outreach support to farmers' markets that accept EBT cards.