Watauga Farmers’ Market makes healthy food accessible with EBT
Low-income community members may not realize that they can buy the freshest, healthiest food available at the farmers’ market.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, provides benefits to recipients through an Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card, which is now accepted.
Tori Cox, Watauga Farmers’ Market manager, wants to get the word out to all SNAP participants.
“The program is going really well,” she said. “Now that it’s set up, we would love to see more participation.”
Currently, only 21 percent of farmers’ markets nationwide accept EBT. Many of them don’t have access to the equipment and wireless technology needed to handle the EBT cards.
Funds received by our local health department through the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) purchased the equipment, funded an assistant for the market and provided technical assistance in starting up the program in Watauga County. This project is a small piece of their overall goal to make healthy choices easy for the community. For more information, visit http://www.takesteptwo.com.
Kaitlyn Jongkind with the health department was instrumental in setting it all up. She explains how it works.
“It’s called the beet bucks program,” Jongkind said. “Vendors who hang a sign with a red beet accept EBT. Those wanting to use their benefit card must go to the manager’s booth, swipe their card, and tell how much they would like to spend. The token assistant gives them tokens to purchase the produce with.”
Of the 33 vendors who sell products that are authorized for sale under current SNAP guidelines, 31 are participating in the Beet Bucks program. Food that’s eaten at home and seedlings that produce food may be purchased.
The USDA is following this progressive example. They recently announced $4 million in funding to expand EBT capacity at farmers’ markets across the U.S. as part of their larger mission to improve healthy food access in low-income communities.
Word is out that we should soon expect higher food prices due to the drought. Often, overly abundant produce costs less to purchase at farmers’ markets than grocery stores. Freezing vegetables is the easiest way to preserve for the cold months ahead. Corn is an excellent candidate and starting to be available.
Husk and trim the ears, remove silks and wash.
Boil a large pot of water.
Blanch small (1 ¼ inches or less in diameter) ears for 7 minutes, medium ears (1 ¼ to 1 ½ inches) for 9 minutes and large ears (over 1 ½ inches in diameter) for 11 minutes.
Submerge in an ice water bath for the same amount of time.
Drain, then package in a freezer bag that is labeled and dated.
Margie Mansure, M.S., R.D. is a registered dietitian/nutritionist and extension agent with N.C. Cooperative Extension. She offers personalized classes to improve the health of citizens in Watauga County through worksites, schools and community groups. To contact her, email email@example.com or call (828) 264-3061.