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SNAP Benefits And Discounts Offered At Area Farmers Markets

Gwendolyn Glenn

Mecklenburg County officials are reaching out to farmers markets in the area in an effort to get them set up to accept SNAP benefits, commonly known as food stamps. It’s part of an effort to provide communities without grocery stores access to fresh fruits and vegetables.

Abby Wyatt, who oversees the program for the county’s Health Department, says five farmers markets are accepting SNAP purchases, which means they can also offer the Double Bucks Program. Wyatt says when recipient’s use their SNAP EBT debit cards, those funds will be matched up to $20, allowing them to double their purchases.

“The shoppers will go to the market and find the market manager and the market information tent and they will have a sign out for where they can use these benefits," she said. 

"They will go to that tent and swipe their EBT card for the amount they want to spend and they are given wooden tokens in dollar increments that they spend at any vendor that qualifies for a SNAP purchase at the market.”

The five markets accepting SNAP benefits and offering double bucks are the Davidson, Matthews, Seeds for Change and Cotswold farmers markets and The Bulb Mobile Market.

Wyatt says more markets are not participating because it can cost up to $1,500 for the equipment, tokens and monthly fees, which is why she says this year the county is providing the equipment.

"We are offering this to every single farmers market in the county and we are covering those essential startup costs," she said. "It will be a longer process to get all set up but that is the goal."

"Every market has a unique challenge. Some are 100 percent volunteer run and don’t have the staff to do it. I’ve spoken with every manager in the county and they know it is available and are interested."

Many Charlotte residents don’t have access to grocery stores in their communities.

Wyatt says two of the farmers markets that take the SNAP dollars are in high need zip code areas and the mobile food market is designed to reach some of those residents. Matthews and Davidson are not generally thought of as food desert areas, but Wyatt says those farmer’s markets have accepted SNAP in the past, with increased traffic each year.

Gwendolyn is an award-winning journalist who has covered a broad range of stories on the local and national levels. Her experience includes producing on-air reports for National Public Radio and she worked full-time as a producer for NPR’s All Things Considered news program for five years. She worked for several years as an on-air contract reporter for CNN in Atlanta and worked in print as a reporter for the Baltimore Sun Media Group, The Washington Post and covered Congress and various federal agencies for the Daily Environment Report and Real Estate Finance Today. Glenn has won awards for her reports from the Maryland-DC-Delaware Press Association, SNA and the first-place radio award from the National Association of Black Journalists.