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Food stamps not popular at farmers' markets

(article, Culinate staff)

In the past few years, farmers' markets around the country have tried to broaden their audience by making it easy for shoppers to use food stamps at the markets. But as a recent Associated Press report noted, eligible shoppers often simply aren't aware they can use their stamps at the markets. Which makes for some not-so-startling stats:

bq. About one-fourth of the nation's 6,000 or so farmers' markets accept food stamps, now known as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP. But the bulk of SNAP benefits redeemed last year — 82 percent — went to grocery stores and supercenters. Less than 0.01 percent was spent at farmers' markets, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

bq. Although organizers have opened markets in a wider array of neighborhoods and changed their marketing tactics to reach low-income residents, many food-stamps users still don't know they can shop at the markets, lack transportation or time to get to them, or simply believe they can spend their benefits better elsewhere. 

The comparatively high cost of fresh, local produce is also a deterrent for many shoppers. One tactic that seems to work: dollar-matching programs that double the value of shoppers' food stamps.