Help SNAP recipients shop at farmers markets | Opinion

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

Hunger Solutions Minnesota and its many partners throughout the state are dismayed that the Healthy Eating Here at Home program — otherwise known as “Market Bucks” — was eliminated in the agriculture budget agreement announced by lawmakers a few days ago.

In a time of unprecedented food insecurity, with 1 in 9 Minnesotans struggling to put food on the table, Market Bucks helps low-income Minnesotans enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) increase their buying power at farmers’ markets with a dollar-for-
dollar match — up to $10 — at 99 farmers’ markets throughout Minnesota.

The program is a triple win for the state — supporting those struggling to put food on the table, farmers and local economies alike.

In 2020, SNAP participants spent over $275,000 in SNAP-EBT at their local farmers’ markets, and in return spent almost $185,000 in Market Bucks.  generating over $600,000 in local economic activity.

Popularity for the program grew 31% from 2019 to 2020, proving its importance to struggling families during the increased need and great economic insecurity that came from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Farmers’ markets around the state have already begun their season with the expectation that Market Bucks would continue to operate as it has been doing successfully for almost a decade.

But come July 1, without the funds necessary to continue, the program will come to an abrupt halt — undoubtedly causing confusion and disappointment for all involved. SNAP participants who were able to leverage Market Bucks this month to better afford healthy, local food will show up to their local market in July only to learn that the program no longer exists.

Should funding for the program become available in the future to reinstate the program, we fear it will be overshadowed by a degree of uncertainty given this current disruption.

In addition, the program brings approximately 13,000 new customers to farmers’ markets annually. Losing this program will cause Minnesota farmers to see their customer base diminish.

Later in July, the program stands to lose an award from the USDA for a full Federal match of $325,000 per year. We will be sacrificing the opportunity to leverage $3 into local economies for every $1 the state invested.

We urge legislative leaders to explore any and all options to preserve Market Bucks — a program that we cannot afford to lose.

Visit Hunger Solutions to learn more, get involved or help support the Market
Bucks program.

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Colleen Moriarty
Colleen Moriarty

Colleen Moriarty is the executive director at Hunger Solutions Minnesota. Colleen has been involved in poverty programs for the majority of her career. She works to motivate decision-makers to take supportive action on state and national hunger policy issues.

Leah Gardner
Leah Gardner

Leah Gardner is the policy director for Hunger Solutions Minnesota. Leah’s career has been grounded in a commitment to racial and economic justice. Leah is a Voices for Racial Justice Apprentice and a graduate of the Humphrey Institute with a Master of Public Policy.