Seattle will extend a program that helps food-stamp recipients afford fruits and vegetables at the city’s farmers markets through the end of the year instead of ending it Oct. 31 as originally planned.
Fresh Bucks matches fruit and vegetable purchases of up to $10 for shoppers who use the federally supported Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program.
Since the program was launched in 2012, thousands of low-income shoppers have taken advantage of it, according to Public Health – Seattle & King County. Of the 2,500 shoppers who have used it in 2013, at least 500 were visiting a farmers market for the first time and 1,000 were using their electronic benefits transfer (EBT) card at a farmers market for the first time.
While Fresh Bucks users collectively received about $57,224 from the program, market vendors brought in $82,890 from the program.
“Fresh Bucks is a great example of how programs that support the most vulnerable in our community can provide tremendous benefits for the entire community,” said Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn in a statement. “I’m pleased to be able to extend this innovative program through the end of the year.”
The program was created and funded through a partnership of the City of Seattle, JPMorgan Chase, Neighborhood Farmers Market Alliance, and The Seattle Foundation.
Sara Wysocki said the city’s food-policy adviser, Sharon Lerman, decided to extend the program because there were still funds left from the original $200,000 available to be used on it this year. Half of that — $100,000 — is available for Fresh Bucks voucher redemption this year. Wysocki said funds that aren’t used this year will be rolled over into next year’s budget for the program, which is expected to be even more widely used.
McGinn has allotted $100,000 for the program in his plan for the city’s 2014 budget, which is still being discussed by the Seattle City Council. Wysocki said that, like this year, additional funding support may come from other organizations next year, but those partnerships have not been finalized.
Although several farmers markets close after the summer months, four year-round farmers markets in Seattle will still be open for Fresh Bucks shoppers:
- University District Farmers Market: Saturdays, 9 am to 2 pm at University Way Northeast between Northeast 50th Street and Northeast 52nd Street
- Broadway Farmers Market in Capitol Hill: Sundays, 11 am to 3 pm at intersection of Broadway and East Pine Street (Seattle Central Community College)
- Ballard Farmers Market: Sundays, 10 am to 3 pm on Ballard Avenue Northwest between Vernon Place Northwest and 22nd Avenue Northwest
- West Seattle Farmers Market: Sundays, 10 am to 2 pm at 44th Ave SW & SW Alaska St.