The Most Wonderful Time of the Year: Farmers Markets Open, Giving Low-Income Minnesotans Access to Fresh, Healthy and Affordable Food

Farmers markets across Minnesota sign on to accept EBT and offer Market Bucks incentive; ease of use and increased buying power fuels increase in number of SNAP participants shopping at markets

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Center for Prevention at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota

“Fresh produce directly from farmers enables children, adults and seniors to live healthier, more productive lives.” Minnesota Department of Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson.

Eagan, Minnesota (PRWEB) May 27, 2014

Access to fresh, affordable food continues to be a challenge that low-income Minnesotans face as they strive to eat healthier. A collaborative effort by rural and urban farmers markets, the Center for Prevention at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota (Blue Cross) and the Minnesota Department of Human Services is successfully combating that barrier.

This growing season, nearly 70 farmers markets across the state accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) enabling more SNAP recipients to use their benefits to purchase vegetables, fruits and other eligible products directly from their local farmers. From 2011 through 2013, there was a 239 percent increase in SNAP use at farmers markets, largely a result of this collaborative effort.

SNAP recipients can also stretch their dollars further with a special incentive from Blue Cross, which matches Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card purchases with up to an additional $5 in “Market Bucks” each market day. The Market Bucks program is available at 60-plus markets, and can be used during the same trip or anytime during the 2014 market season on SNAP-eligible purchases. This year these Market Bucks have the potential to be particularly valuable as the cost of fresh produce is poised to jump for grocery store shoppers due to the continued droughts in California. Items like lettuce, tomatoes and broccoli could see prices jump as much as 20 percent in the coming months, meaning local farmers market produce can be as good for people’s wallets as it is for their health.

“We know many people want to make healthier choices for themselves and their families, but the challenge is providing all Minnesotans an opportunity to do so,” said Janelle Waldock, director of the Center for Prevention at Blue Cross. “Enabling SNAP recipients to use their EBT card at their local farmers market does more than provide them access to locally-sourced, affordable, fresh food. It can also help develop community connections, building demand for further public health improvements within that community—something which is especially important in areas where we find significant health disparities.”

Terminals that accept EBT cards at farmers markets allow SNAP recipients to use their benefits to purchase directly from farmers and gain easy access to healthy foods, which may otherwise not be readily available, especially in neighborhoods that lack a full-service grocery store. This can also help drive the blossoming of local economies, create a larger customer base for markets and generate an economic boost when new SNAP benefits are redeemed.

“With the tremendous growth—more than double in two years—in use of SNAP benefits at farmers markets, we know more low-income Minnesotans are able to put nutritious food on their tables each day,” said Minnesota Department of Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson. “Fresh produce directly from farmers enables children, adults and seniors to live healthier, more productive lives.”

Visit: z.umn.edu/farmersmarkets to see a full list of farmers markets across Minnesota that are accepting EBT and participating in the 2014 Market Bucks program.

For more information about SNAP, contact your county social service agency or call the Minnesota Food Helpline at 888-711-1151.

About the Center for Prevention
The Center for Prevention at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota delivers on Blue Cross’ long‐term commitment to improve the health of all Minnesotans by tackling the leading root causes of preventable disease: tobacco use, lack of physical activity and unhealthy eating. Funded through proceeds from Blue Cross’ historic lawsuit against the tobacco industry, we collaborate with organizations statewide to increase health equity, transform communities and create a healthier state. Visit http://www.CenterForPreventionMN.com for more information.

About Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota (bluecrossmn.com), with headquarters in the St. Paul suburb of Eagan, was chartered in 1933 as Minnesota’s first health plan and continues to carry out its charter mission today as a health company: to promote a wider, more economical and timely availability of health services for the people of Minnesota. Blue Cross is a not‐for‐profit, taxable organization. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, headquartered in Chicago.

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