Farmers market reaches out to needy
SALEM – Purchasing healthy and fresh foods doesn’t come cheap and for those relying on food stamps to help feed their families, shopping at the local farmers market was previously a luxury that many simply couldn’t afford.
Wanting to help their neighbors in need, organizers for Salem’s weekly farmers market began accepting EBT cards about a year and a half ago.
This summer the staff at the market are taking things a step further with the implementation of the new Double Value Token Program.
Shoppers can now present their EBT card when they purchase their market tokens, and for every dollar purchased, the market is doubling the amount, allowing them to purchase more freshly grown and prepared products.
“The value of this is tremendous, as it gives families food with a longer shelf life and higher in nutrients when purchasing fresh produce not trucked in from hundreds of miles away,” market coordinator Jane Lang said.
The state’s Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) program allows needy residents to purchase various fresh, frozen and canned grocery items, as well as seeds and plants for growing their own food at home.
Currently, the Salem Farmers Market is trying to obtain sponsorship funds from various community organizations to help keep the Double Value program afloat, though so far they haven’t been successful in doing so.
That hasn’t stopped them from moving forward with the program.
“We haven’t been awarded any grants for this,” Lang said. “But there’s still such a huge need for this, we decided to go ahead with it. There are so many people out there in our communities that rely on food stamps, including our seniors.”
Community donations are currently being accepted to assist with the new program, and those who want to help out can do so through a PayPal account set up on the market’s website.
With nearly 1,300 fans on the Salem Farmers Market Facebook page, Lang said that if each of those fans donated $1, she’d have more than enough to keep the Double Value Token Program running through the summer.
“I’ve always had a passion for giving back, and we want people to feel good about shopping at the market,” she added.
Town officials from Salem and surrounding communities lauded the program for its efforts to assist those in need.
Windham Community Development Director Laura Scott called it a win-win.
“It’s great to support local farmers and at the same time, its helping people with limited incomes access local food,” Scott said.
Admitting the market has been scrutinized by some for accepting food stamps as payment, Lang said she’s also open to the idea of allowing low-income residents that don’t quite qualify for food stamps participate in the program.
“We realize there’s a lot of people out there working two or three part-time jobs – people that are struggling to feed their families even though their income is above the EBT requirement,” Lang said. “Either way, every dollar we get puts that extra dollar into a family benefitting from fresh produce picked from local farms.”
Those wishing to assist the program may send checks to Salem NH Farmers Market, P.O. Box 213, Salem, NH 03079.
The Salem Farmers Market, located at Lake Street Garden Center in Salem, is open every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Summer market hours will remain the same through late October.
For more information visit www.salemnhfarmersmarket.com or call Lang at 339-8424.