On Feb. 27, we hosted our first SNAP merchant sign-up day for Georgia farmers markets and farmers. We partnered with USDA’s Food and Nutrition Services, the Georgia Department of Agriculture, MarketLinkTM (a program of the National Association of Farmers Market Nutrition Programs), and the Atlanta Community Food Bank to assist interested farmers markets and farmers in becoming authorized to accept SNAP.
During the sign-up, 12 farmers markets and 23 farmers were authorized to accept SNAP benefits, bringing the total number of authorized farmers markets and farmers in Georgia to 110, a 47-percent increase.
Through the success of the SNAP authorization event, we are beginning to envision a Georgia where all farmers markets not only accept, but double SNAP dollars as partners of our coupon program. We envision a Georgia where all individuals have the opportunity to support local farmers and strengthen their local food economies. We have an incredible opportunity to connect SNAP recipients with farmers markets and healthy eating habits, and make healthy, fresh, locally sourced food accessible to all no matter their location in the state.
Since initiation of the coupon program in 2009, Wholesome Wave has distributed more than $547,000 in healthy food incentives to Georgia SNAP recipients. This represents more than $1 million dollars in healthy, locally grown food to SNAP recipients and income for the state’s farmers.
Unfortunately, only 23 percent of Georgia’s 141 farmers markets are authorized to accept SNAP. What if all 141 participated? This would expand the customer base and increase the local share of SNAP dollars put back into the community.
For more information about our programs to help food-insecure Georgians, visit us at: www.wholesomewavegeorgia.org/
Sara Berney is executive director of Wholesome Wave Georgia.