Sisters Farmers Market brings SNAP, locally sourced food to those in need

SISTERS, Ore. (KTVZ) — A partnership between Sisters Farmers Market, Seed to Table Oregon, and the Roundhouse Foundation is putting fresh food on the table for people who want to improve access to healthy sources of nutrition. Market manager Caroline Hager says a Roundhouse Foundation grant funded efforts to launch the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to the market this season.

SNAP is a federal nutrition assistance program. It provides benefits to eligible low-income individuals and families through an Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card. EBT cards can be used like debit cards to purchase eligible products at authorized retail food stores, including most farmers’ markets nationwide.

So far, the 2021 market has had over $1,000 worth of currency traded by buyers using SNAP. An additional grant program, Double Up Food Bucks (DUFB), helped double customer benefits from dollar to dollar, so that $10 becomes $20 to buy locally grown fruits and vegetables.

Last year, Seed to Table offered a COVID-19 Food For All discount to ensure access to fresh produce for shoppers with shrinking food budgets. “After seeing the benefits of the discount in 2020, we learned more about the food needs of the community,” Hager said. “Based on this, we decided to join many other farmers’ markets and start accepting SNAP.”

Taking over management of the Sisters Farmers Market in 2019, Seed to Table hired Hager to improve and improve the weekly event to reflect community needs and feedback. With five more markets remaining this season, Hager wants to make sure everyone has the opportunity to include local produce and other healthy food items in their diet. “There are still opportunities to use the benefits of SNAP to get the most out of the growing season,” Hager said.

COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on both consumers and producers. Hager says market vendors are committed to supporting their communities during this time.

“Even with the challenges of drought and the pandemic, local farmers and producers have stepped up to provide consistent and reliable food sources to market buyers. Vendors show up weekly, ensuring that even the most vulnerable members of the community have access to locally sourced food that hasn’t traveled through so many hands and delivery systems,” Hager said.

About half of the weekly vendors are eligible to accept SNAP, and through the program they are also becoming aware of the food needs of the community. “Vendors have been happy to accept SNAP and participate in helping their neighbors. Becoming more accessible gives increased reach and revenue stream for small producers,” Hager added.

Some of those served are seniors, families and the homeless in the area. “It affects a wide range of individuals and there’s no reason to stigmatize anything,” Hager said. “I hope people don’t hesitate to access fresh food. We want people to know it’s an option and we’re here to help.

For more information about SNAP and how to apply, visit https://www.sistersfarmersmarket.com/snap, or stop by the information booth at Sisters Farmers Market on Sundays.

James V. Payne