When a shopper at the Farmington Farmers’ Market spends a dollar with SNAP, they will receive a dollar voucher in Maine Harvest Bucks. (Submitted image)

FARMINGTON — The Farmington Farmers’ Market will offer Maine Harvest Bucks again this year.

Maine Harvest Bucks is a program that helps thousands of Mainers eat more fruits and vegetables every year. People who buy food using SNAP (the program formerly known as Food Stamps) have an average of $4 a day to spend on food. Maine Harvest Bucks doubles that amount of food dollars and encourages the shoppers to buy fruits and vegetables at the farmers’ market. The market operates every Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon at the Farmington District Court on Main Street.

Any person who shops with SNAP is welcome to join in and reap the harvest with Maine Harvest Bucks, which increases the purchasing power of people shopping with SNAP. When a shopper spends a dollar with SNAP, they will receive a dollar voucher in Maine Harvest Bucks. The Maine Harvest Bucks is a dollar for dollar match for fresh fruits and vegetables at the market that day, or shoppers can also save the Harvest Bucks vouchers for when their SNAP/EBT funds are low. This helps to ensure families can buy food at all times of the month.

The United Way of the Tri-Valley Area is the fiscal sponsor for the Farmington Farmers’ Market’s Harvest Bucks program, and the organization is helping recruit volunteers to staff the information booth. These volunteers will process EBT and debit/credit cards and provide valuable resource information to shoppers at the Market.

For information about volunteering, email [email protected] or call 778-5048.

The market members noted that the Maine Harvest Bucks brought them new customers last year and look forward to meeting new people this year. They also regard the program as a great way for their market to fight food insecurity in their community.

Erica Emery, owner of Rustic Roots Farm, said, “We are excited to get healthier food to customers who may not have shopped at the Farmers’ Market before. It’s good for farmers when people shop at the market, and good for the shoppers.”

The program helps to address a major issue in all Maine communities. Maine has the third highest percentage of residents experiencing hunger in the country (behind Alabama and Louisiana). One in every four children in Maine are food insecure. SNAP keeps thousands of Mainers out of poverty by giving them extra dollars for food.

However, shopping for food with only $4 a day can lead to difficult choices. Maine Harvest Bucks helps Maine families by increasing the food budget for shoppers using SNAP at farmers markets.

Maine Harvest Bucks is a program of the Maine Federation of Farmers’ Markets (MFFM). It supported the program for the past three years under USDA’s Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive Grant. Farmington Farmers’ Market partners with MFFM to operate the program.

“It’s a win-win for farmers and the families,” said Jimmy DeBiasi, the SNAP program coordinator at the Maine Federation of Farmers’ Markets.

“Farmers gain new customers. Maine families who use SNAP have more dollars to spend on fruits and vegetables. That’s what Maine Harvest Bucks is about,” he said.

The Farmington Farmers’ Market was founded in 2009 and now features nine permanent vendors with rotating guest vendors throughout the season. At the Farmington Farmers’ Market, shoppers will find a friendly face at the “Market Info Booth” who can explain how Maine Harvest Bucks works. Visit maineharvestbucks.org to learn about all the locations (farmers’ markets and more) statewide where these SNAP bonuses are available.

“Like” the Farmington Farmers’ Market and United Way of the Tri-Valley Area on Facebook to learn more about upcoming activities such as cooking demonstrations and live music.

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