Buying Fresh Produce is a SNAP at Riverwalk Market Fair

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For the second summer in a row, the Riverwalk Market Fair is providing easily-accessible fresh produce to low-income families and individuals in the Northfield area .

In the summer of 2010, Growing Up Healthy, a coalition of about a dozen organizations and agencies that share an overarching goal of improving community connectedness for marginalized families in Rice county, secured a grant from Rice county public health’s State Health Improvement Program (SHIP) to purchase two EBT (Electronic Benefit Transfer) card reader machines—one for Northfield, and one for Faribault.

Participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) swipe a card at the machine, located in the central tent, to get tokens that they can exchange for produce at participating farm stands in the market. The machine also functions conveniently as an ATM. Non-SNAP participants can use debit cards to get different-colored tokens for a small fee. Farmers and food vendors trade the tokens back for reimbursement from the Riverwalk Market Fair.

According to Growing Up Healthy, the program was born from the specific knowledge that the farmer’s market offers fantastic produce, but that few low-income people take advantage of it. In Rice County alone, there are now 3,717 people on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program—1,986 adults and 1,731 children—with numbers growing steadily. A similar long-running project nearby in Iowa has reduced the stigma associated with using paper coupons (formerly known as "food stamps") and dramatically increased sales each year for farmers.

In its first season, the Riverwalk Market Fair took the lead regionally in making a SNAP card reader available at its farmers marke.  In 2010 it was the tenth farmers' market in the state to implement it.

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EBT Card Reader Faribault Northfield 2011 Summer.pdf420.26 KB

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SHIP/SNAP and Market Fair Collaboration

From its very beginning, Riverwalk Market Fair sought to create a platform (mission, legal entity, insurance, guidelines and city lease) upon which we could provide not only a destination market venue for artist entrepreneurs, food producers and artisans, but also work with others to bring ideas into this public gathering place. 

The SNAP program is an example of a new look at local foods infrastructure ideas and Riverwalk Market Fair was able to respond quickly and work with SHIP to make it happen.   Thanks to all who made this collaboration work!  And watch for more SNAP uses building on this good start.  See you downtown at Market Fair. 

Dean Kjerland, a founder and current Board member.

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