Farmers market food stamp program helps vendors, shoppers

Double Up Food Bucks help low-income families buy local produce

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IOWA CITY — A new Iowa City Farmers Market program aimed at helping low-income people buy produce seems to be benefiting both vendors and market-goers.

Market officials implemented the Double Up Food Buck program in July. For those who receive SNAP EBT benefits, the market doubles the amount of money they can spend on fresh produce by up to $10.

“It’s bringing more money into the farmers market,” said Cassidy Bell, farmers market supervisor. “That was just a whole customer base that they didn’t have access too.”

Bell said the program helps those who use food stamps get more nutritious foods, and it also benefits vendors because it brings extra money to the market. On average, she said the program gets about 10 to 15 uses during the Saturday market and about five during the Wednesday market.

The Iowa City market is the only one in the area to offer the program, and Bell said some vendors were hesitant at first. However, she said, all now feel the program is a plus for the market.

“It’s unbelievable how well it’s working for everybody,” Bell said.

The Iowa City Council set aside $5,000 for the program this year, and Bell expects the finanical support to continue.

Farmers market coordinator Tammy Neumann said that previously, few vendors offered electronic benefits transfer card readers because of the required processing fees.

As part of the program, the city bought card readers that work with credit, debit or EBT cards that marketgoers can swipe at the main information booth.

Once customers swipe their EBT cards, market workers give them special wooden or metal coins to give to vendors for fresh produce. After the market is over, vendors return the coins and receive a direct deposit from the market for the money customers spent.

 

Neumann said families can receive $20 to $30 per week in free fruits and vegetables if they attend multiple markets. While Tuesday markets have wrapped up for the summer, the Saturday and Wednesday markets run through the end of October.

The Wednesday market runs from 5 to 7 p.m. while the Saturday market is from 7:30 a.m. to noon. Both are at the Chauncey Swan Ramp in the 400 block of Washington Street in Iowa City.

 

If You Go

What: Iowa City Farmers Market

When: 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesdays, 7:30 a.m. to noon Saturdays through the end of October.

Where: Chauncey Swan Ramp in the 400 block of Washington Street.

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