by Sara Graham
Everyone knows that food stamps (known now as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP) provides monetary assistance to low-income individuals and families to buy groceries. But not everyone may realize that there are now six farmers' markets in St. Louis that accept SNAP cards.
There's just one problem -- not a lot of SNAP dollars are spent there. Junk food often costs considerably less, while small, local farms are labor intensive and, thus, charge more than the average supermarket chain for similar items.
Brian DeSmet, manager of the Schlafly Farmers Market, wants to change that. But he needs the public's help.
On Monday, July 14, the St. Louis Farmers Market Association launched "SNAP 2 IT!", an Indigogo campaign created raise funds for a "double buck" program designed to make farmers' market food affordable for low-income households. If successfully funded, the "SNAP 2 It!" program would match up to $10 of SNAP funds per visit. So, for example, a $2 tomato at a farmers' market would take just $1 out of the customer's available SNAP funds.
"Creating a SNAP matching-dollar program for our city is a win-win for all parties," writes DeSmet in an email to Gut Check. "It helps to make healthy food more affordable for low-income residents, increases income for small family farmers and keeps more SNAP funds in our local economy."
The campaign is based on programs such as the Double Up Bucks program in Michigan. This program uses funding from a combination of private and community foundations, and corporations to match up to $20 per visit.
DeSmet was instrumental in setting up the SNAP program for the Tower Grove Farmers Market and Schalfly Farmers Market and has been researching options for making local food affordable for years. His fundraising goal is $3,000 (though, if the target is reached before the end of the 30 days, it will be extended to $5,000), which would be enough to finish out the summer growing season. If the campaign is successful, the double-bucks option will be available at the Cherokee Street International Farmers Market, EarthDance Farms at Ferguson Farmers Market (coming soon), International Institute of St. Louis Global Farms, North City Farmers Market, Schlafly Farmers Market and the Webster Groves Farmers Market. (Though Tower Grove Farmers Market also accepts SNAP dollars, it just secured its own funding for a match program from the United Way.)
DeSmet hopes this will be the first step to permanently establishing a farmers' market SNAP double-bucks program in St. Louis.
Donors can contribute to the campaign by clicking here.