Thousands of low-income residents across the state depend on EBT cards to purchase food. Statewide 19% of Mainers use the cards, and now there’s a push to get more of the states Farmers’ Markets to accept this form of payment. New Source 8’s Angela Christoforos talked to a member of the Presque Isle Farmers’ Market to get his take…
Buying fresh locally grown fruits and vegetables draws hundreds of consumers to local Farmers Markets each year; and now there’s talk of potentially expanding EBT or Electronic Benefit Transfer card acceptance this year to about 50 of the state’s 139 markets.
Mark Goughan a Member of Presque Isle Farmers’ Market said, “We are always interested in how to get the best fresh produce into the hands of customers so that they can enjoy the freshness and bounty of what we grow here in Aroostook County.”
The conceivable expansion is a way to get locally grown, nutritious food onto the tables of people receiving federal food stamp aid.
“A dollar spent local is a great value and a great win for everybody,” said Goughan.
Goughan’s Berry Farm of Caribou is 1 of 15 members of the Presque Isle Farmers’ Market. The season officially begins on Mothers Day and lasts until mid October. According to the Director of the Maine Federation of Farmers’ Markets, whether this expands to markets here in the County largely depends on the market and members interest.
“We have not yet been approached by the Department of Agriculture. We are going to gather the information and we’ll decide as a market whether this program would fit into our marketing strategy,” said Goughan.
One barrier to expanding EBT use is the cost of technology. $500 to $1000 worth of wireless terminal is needed to handle the cards. But a $4 million grant program could help offset the cost.
There is also another supplemental food program called Wic that provides vouchers to Farmer’s Markets specifically for pregnant and nursing mothers as well as children up to the age of 5 that are income eligible. For more information go to http://www.maine.gov/dhhs/mecdc/health-equity/wic/