Today’s blog is by Shane Collins, 3SquaresVT Outreach Coordinator.  

Everyone knows that to be healthy, you need to eat nutritious foods. But it’s not always easy. If you’re a working family on a budget, food also needs to be convenient and affordable. And when push comes to shove, which of those three requirements are you most likely to cave on? While the fresh tomatoes and crisp kale at the farmers market look good and are obviously better for you, they’re not always cheap. You might Snap outreach blog picturethink that for the same price, you can order fast food off the value menu and feed your whole family dinner. It may not be nutritious but at least they’re full, right?

I may not have ALL the answers but, depending on your situation, I may have ONE answer. It’s called Crop Cash. If you currently receive 3SquaresVT food assistance, you probably already know that you can use your benefits at many farmers markets across the state. But, did you know that by doing so, you can double your money? Each time you visit a participating farmers market, you can take $10 from your card and receive $10 to purchase food as well as an additional $10 to buy fruits and vegetables. Suddenly, those tomatoes are much more affordable.

And don’t forget, when you use your benefits card at the fCrop casharmers market, your family is not the only one who benefits. It’s well known that SNAP dollars work as a stimulus for local economies. According to the USDA, for every dollar that is spent, it generates an average of $1.79 in local economic growth. It’s only recently that SNAP has been accepted by farmers markets, and still only in some states. However, early research shows that the economic multiplier is even more dramatic when the money is spent in farmers markets. One recent estimate shows that one dollar of SNAP benefits translates into as much as $2.80 of economic growth at farmers markets. Imagine spending $20 on several ears of corn, a carton of strawberries, a couple of squash and a watermelon. Perhaps that farmer can then pay a high school seasonal worker for a couple more hours of labor. That high schooler then goes to a local pizzeria and uses that money to buy a couple slices of pizza. The owner of the pizza shop can then… You see the pattern here.

While I can’t tell you what to do with the produce once you take them home (my sautéed kale recipe is nothing to brag about) maybe helping your family eat a more nutritious diet just got a little easier. And your local farmers and neighboring business owners will appreciate it too.

If you’d like assistance in applying for 3SquaresVT, please call the Vermont Foodbank’s outreach team at 855-855-6181 or check out our inquiry page. If you’re still trying to figure out what to do with all that fresh kale, check out this Meatless Monday recipe.