SNAP up more food for free at farmers markets

Arizona Daily Star • Written by Patty Machelor • Published 08/26/15

The Heirloom Farmers Market will soon make it easier for people facing financial hardships to get fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables.

The campaign, which begins in September and is called Double Your Dollars, will allow anyone with a SNAP card to receive up to $20 worth of fruits and vegetables for free with the purchase of $20 worth of other groceries.

Manish Shah, co-executive director of the market, said they started accepting SNAP dollars a year ago, after moving from St. Philip’s Plaza to the Rillito Park, 4502 N. 1st Ave.

There’s $5,000 to use for the campaign this year, he said. The funding is through Wholesome Wave, a national nonprofit that supports programs helping unemployed and low-income people access healthier food.

“Their mission is very much like ours, which is to try to improve access to food and nutrition and, basically, get local food into the hands of folks who don’t normally have access to it,” said Shah, a founder of the Tucson market. “We would like people to eat more fruits and vegetables, specifically local fruits and vegetables.”

He said Double Your Dollars will continue until the funding runs out.

People can spend the first $20 on any food items needed for home, including bread, coffee or meat, but not pizza slices or cups of coffee they consume there, Shah said.
The Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona started a similar program in July. Double-Up SNAP is available at all the Food Bank’s farmers markets with the same matching of up to $20.

“We are really happy that two of the major Tucson area farmers markets are making locally produced foods more accessible to all families,” said Kara Jones, the farmers market manager for the food bank.

“SNAP participants can receive up to $20 in a free match for every dollar they spend with SNAP benefits, meaning that they can get $40 worth of locally grown produce for only $20.”
Jones called the incentive program a “triple-win” because it benefits the health of local residents, while also helping local farmers and Tucson’s economy.