Farmers’ markets around the mid-valley been helping SNAP recipients stretch their dollar to purchase more fresh fruits and vegetables since 2007.
Now, with the help of a $1.5 million gift courtesy of House Bill 5050 — also known as the "Christmas tree bill" — this legislative session, more help may be coming for the 2020-2021 market season.
House Bill 5050 allocated $1.5 million over the biennium to the farmers’ market programs after residents spoke on the benefits the markets afford and the needs they have going forward.
Rebecca Landis, director of the Corvallis-Albany Farmers' Markets, was one of the residents who testified before the state Legislature, noting that the SNAP Double Up and matching programs — which allow recipients to earn an extra dollar for every SNAP dollar they spend at the market — facilitated customers being able to afford a more nutritious diet.
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“Farmers,” she said, “were motivated to attend more markets per year and our farmers’ markets became more inclusive community places.”
Under the SNAP Double Up program, customers can purchase fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, dried beans, herbs, vegetable starts and dried fruits as long as no sugar has been added. By doubling SNAP dollars, customers can purchase more food.
While markets have been accepting SNAP since 2007, Landis said the local programs have been matching those dollars with various sources of funding since 2011. The $1.5 million is expected to continue partially funding the Double Up program, with other funding coming from nonprofit Fresh and Local, First and one-time donations from other local charities making up the difference.
Ideally, Landis said, some of the funds from HB 5050 would go toward a pilot program that would help rural grocery stores with their SNAP and WIC requirements. Funds may also be given to farmers’ markets that have not yet started accepting SNAP benefits.
According to the Oregon Farmers’ Markets Association, approximately half of the state’s farmers markets participate in SNAP matching programs.
”Oregon’s farmers markets are very committed to working towards being accessible to customers of all income levels,” says Oregon Farmers Markets Association Executive Director Kelly Crane. “This is an important step in that direction.”