(KMAland) – A sign of spring in Nebraska is the return of local farmers’ markets, and families participating in SNAP – the program formerly known as food stamps – can double their buying power at seven participating markets across the state.
Margaret Milligan – program coordinator with Buy Fresh Buy Local Nebraska – says the purpose of the Double your food dollars program is to connect struggling families with fresh, nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables.
“They’re more expensive than processed foods and ready-to-eat foods,” Milligan said. “So this program was really started to help these people get more nutritious food into their kitchens.”
Families who spend up to $20 using their electronic benefit transfer cards can receive an additional $20 per day which can be used to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables.
Since the program launched in 2017, more than 4,000 families have participated, adding more than $300,000 to local economies. To find a participating market, visit ‘doubleupnebraska.org.’
Milligan said markets are a great place to introduce children to where their food comes from and farmers are happy to answer questions.
Markets also tend to be a hub for community gatherings. Many offer cooking classes, live music, and other family-friendly activities.
“Children’s Days at Farmers Markets, where the local fire truck is brought in, and kids can visit it or talk to the firefighters,” Milligan said. “There are public libraries that have story time at farmers markets.”
Money spent at local markets tends to stay in Nebraska, unlike grocery chains. Milligan said every dollar spent at farmers’ markets generates three dollars in economic activity.
Farmers also benefit from an influx of new customers and get a fair price for their produce. Produce harvested that morning or the day before also contains significantly more vitamins and minerals, and taste, than goods shipped across the country.
“We like to think of it as a win for the participant, who gets the food,” Milligan said. “It’s a win for the farmer who grows this food. And it’s a win for the community they buy this food from.”