Mayor Rawlings-Blake Launches New SNAP Benefits and Baltimore Bucks at the Baltimore Farmers’ Market & Bazaar
(BALTIMORE - July 8, 2012) – Today, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake launched SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits, Baltimore Bucks, and debit card use at the market. The mayor was joined by representatives from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Maryland Department of Agriculture, and Kaiser Permanente of the Mid-Atlantic States to announce progressive actions that improve access to healthy food and support local farmers.
“As a city that takes food access seriously, introducing SNAP benefits at Baltimore’s largest farmers’ market is one of the many strategies to improve health outcomes through increasing access to healthy affordable food in the city while supporting our local farmers,” said Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. “I want to thank our partners at Kaiser Permanente of the Mid-Atlantic States for sponsoring the Welcome Center, which makes it possible for the market to provide SNAP benefits.”
Beginning today, shoppers can swipe their SNAP benefits card at the Welcome Center and receive tokens to use at participating vendors. Tokens come in $1 (SNAP) and $5 (debit) increments, and cardholders choose how many tokens they wish to purchase. Baltimore Bucks make the offer more enticing by offering SNAP customers up to $10 in matching funds to spend at the market. The new token payment system also works with bank account debit cards, making it easier for shoppers who don’t have cash to make purchases. Debit users are not eligible for Baltimore Bucks.
More than 30 percent of Baltimore City residents receive SNAP benefits—approximately 190,000 people. This translates to $422 million from SNAP benefits redeemed at food retailers in 2011. This is a significant amount of SNAP dollars, and now, farmers will directly benefit from the SNAP redemptions while customers get the freshest foods found in the region. Currently, 35 farmers at the Baltimore Farmers’ Market & Bazaar accept tokens.
“SNAP participation at farmers’ markets helps provide fresh fruit and vegetables to families and expands the customer base for local farmers in the Delmarva area, a win-win for agriculture and local communities,” said Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan. “And when we couple SNAP access at farmers’ markets with strategies like education, cooking demonstrations, and community support in the Baltimore area, consumption of healthy foods has potential to grow even more.”
“Homegrown Baltimore: Grow Local, Buy Local, and Eat Local,” the City’s initiative to support local farmers, fits within statewide and national efforts to support farmers.
“There are more than 130 farmers’ markets across the state. Customers can purchase a wide variety of locally-grown and locally-produced products, including fruits, vegetables, herbs, flowers, plants, eggs, meats, baked goods, and cheeses,” said Maryland Agriculture Secretary Buddy Hance. “We thank Baltimore City residents for supporting Maryland producers. The Baltimore Farmers’ Market & Bazaar under the JFX is the state’s largest, and 31 of the 44 farmers participate in our Maryland’s Best. Farmers’ markets are increasingly popular sources of farm-fresh, locally-grown, nutritious produce in communities across the state and the nation. Every dollar spent on local products supports and strengthens our family-owned farms and contributes to the economic health of the community.”
Following a press conference, the mayor was one of the first customers to use a debit card to purchase tokens and spend those tokens to purchase goods at farmer stands.
Other funders and partners include the Abell, Weinberg, and Baltimore Community Foundations, as well as Maryland Hunger Solutions, Maryland Department of Agriculture, and USDA. Media sponsorship is provided by WYPR Radio.
The market is located on Saratoga Street, between Holliday and Gay streets, under the Jones Falls Expressway, and operates Sundays through December 23, 2012 from 7:00 am until sell out—usually noon. For information related to SNAP benefits at farmers markets and the Baltimore Food Policy Initiative please call 443-928-3477.
Visit our Website @ www.baltimorecity.gov