Perspectives (April 2015)
Sara Merz, Director
Spring and pollen are here, and that means the farmers’ markets of Wake County are opening again for the season. I’m seeing great partnerships to make these markets successful, and also to bring Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits to many of the markets through EBT (formerly food stamps).
The new Zebulon Farm Fresh Market, opening May 2, will accept EBT and offer a new point of access to fresh healthy food in that food desert, and the Western Wake Farmers’ Market (WWFM) in Cary is opening a second location at the UNC Wellness Center on May 2 as well. Both the WWFM markets accept EBT.
Did you know that shopping at the farmers market is one of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s best practices for improving health in this country? They have found that when you shop at the farmers’ market you eat more vegetables and fruit. It makes sense. I may think of the decision point for an eating choice to happen the moment I open the refrigerator, but it’s the food I bought earlier that determines what I choose from. If I haven’t had a chance to buy veggies, they won’t be there to choose when I open the fridge.
So in addition to encouraging you to stop at a farmers’ market and support our local farmers (and your health), I’m pleased that 9 markets in Wake County now accept EBT, up from zero a few years ago. AHA has been part of bringing EBT to more markets, as have our partners Wake County Human Services and Wake County Cooperative Extension–some through coordinated activity and some because we all have worked to advance this.
Conservatively, 10% of us in Wake County live below the poverty line, and it’s higher for kids. In fact, there are 38,360+ households in Wake County receiving SNAP benefits, and 83,440+ individual SNAP recipients. So if you receive EBT, or know or work with people who may receive EBT benefits, please spread the word about the markets accepting EBT.
At times, some markets have funds to offer a “market match” to EBT users; this enables them to stretch their food dollars for fresher, healthy food. WWFM offers a substantial match—the first $20 spent by any EBT user each week. Accepting EBT at market and providing market matches are important ways to help improving the diets and health of a population that is likely to have health disparities. AHA and Wake County Human Services worked together to be able to provide a small market match at two markets for the last two seasons, specifically for EBT users.
This weekend the Apex Farmers’ Market and the Midtown Farmers Market at North Hills in Raleigh launch their seasons. Several markets in Wake County are already open, while others will open in May. So stop by a farmers’ market to pick up some fresh produce, and spread the word about EBT at the markets. And enjoy the experience of shopping for your food from the people who grow it!