FRESH FOOD FOR ALL
Supplemental food programs expand to farmers’ markets.
WRITTEN BY CLAIRE CUDAHY
ILLUSTRATIONS BY SOPHIA PAPPAS
“Farmers’ markets are for everybody.”
That’s the philosophy of 3rd & Curry Street Farmers’ Market manager Linda Marrone — and it’s the driving force behind her mission to connect low-income families with fresh, seasonal food.
The Carson City farmers’ market is in its third season of accepting Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (aka SNAP) benefits, formerly known as food stamps.
“It took me eight years to get it going because of the changing rules,” Marrone says.
Previously, farmers’ markets were required to be not-for-profit entities in order to accept SNAP benefits, but that rule has since changed.
With help from Partnership Carson City, an organization focused on substance abuse prevention and community education, the market was able to navigate the SNAP certification. The nonprofit purchased the required SNAP card machine and continues to supply a volunteer to run the program each week.
The 3rd & Curry Street market is one of a handful of SNAP-authorized farmers’ markets in Northern Nevada, along with the Healthy Communities Coalition Market in Dayton and the Fernley Farmers’ Market.
“One thing I learned from other farmers’ markets in California is that just because you accept SNAP doesn’t mean people will shop there. You have to have an added incentive,” Marrone explains. “People who use SNAP can’t afford to pay $3 a pound for organic vegetables, but if you make it $1.50 a pound, then they will come shop.”
Using grant money from Partnership Carson City and donations from other farmers’ market patrons, Marrone was able to double the value for SNAP beneficiaries: Every dollar gets the customer $2 worth of food.
“Each year, we are able to get a little bit more donated to help us continue,” Marrone says.
SNAP benefits can be used at the farmers’ market to buy produce, meat, seafood, honey, dairy, bread, or seeds and plants to grow food.
A year after the Carson City market started accepting SNAP benefits, the market became certified to accept farmers’ markets coupons through Nevada’s Women, Infants, & Children (WIC) program. The market’s vendors also accept coupons provided through the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program.
“Whether you come to the farmers’ market once a month or every week, we want to make everybody feel welcome and make it a positive experience,” Marrone says.
For details on SNAP, WIC, or SFMNP, visit Fns.usda.gov.