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SAVOR THE SEASON: Fresh food becoming more accessible for low-income families

Two farmers markets begin accepting SNAP benefits

September 21, 2018
By ANDY FLYNN - Editor (aflynn@lakeplacidnews.com) , Lake Placid News

LAKE PLACID - Low-income families in Essex County now have more access to farm-fresh food thanks to a pilot program at the Lake Placid and Saranac Lake farmers markets this past summer. Participation, however, is slow to catch on, according to organizers.

The two food-assistance programs for low-income families are the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the Food Stamp Program; and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, popularly known as WIC. Residents can apply for SNAP benefits through the Essex County Department of Social Services (518-873-3428), and they can apply for WIC benefits through the Essex County Health Department (518-873-3500). Both offices are located in Elizabethtown.

Essex County residents with WIC benefits currently have more access to farm-fresh food than those with SNAP benefits, mainly thanks to the WIC Farmers' Market Nutrition Program (FMNP). But there are advocates in the region trying to give SNAP beneficiaries more access to farm-fresh food.

Article Photos

Dan Rivera, of Triple Green Jade Farm in Willsboro, serves a customer at the Adirondack Harvest Festival in Westport Saturday, Sept. 15. Rivera and his wife Kimmy are in charge of administering SNAP benefits at the Lake Placid and Saranac Lake farmers markets.
(News photo — Andy Flynn)

One of those advocates is Carly Summers, the agriculture resource educator at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Essex County, based in Westport. Two others are Dan and Kimmy Rivera, of Triple Green Jade Farm in Willsboro (www.triplegreenjadefarm.com), who are heading the SNAP benefits program at the Lake Placid and Saranac Lake farmers markets.

"Prior to these two farmers markets, there haven't been any farmers markets in the past few years that have taken SNAP," Summers said. "Not only do they get SNAP, but they can get matching Fresh Connect dollars, so their dollars can go further like that."

People get $2 from the FreshConnect Program for every $5 spent in SNAP.

While SNAP and WIC are federally funded programs through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, FreshConnect is a state program, launched in 2011, specifically for farmers markets - to create new farmers markets and support existing markets that provide outlets for fresh food in high-need neighborhoods. It also benefits veterans, service members and their immediate family members.

"It's meant to give eligible community members the ability to buy fresh local food, and that also is meant to help farmers to get more business and connect to community members who might otherwise not go to the farmers market," Summers said.

Pilot program

Dan Rivera is part of the North Country Food Justice Working Group, which holds a Food Justice Summit at the Wild Center in Tupper Lake every winter. The group addresses issues of accessibility, inclusivity, nutrition and justice "from field to fork." It is a coalition of nonprofit and for-profit organizations, community members, local businesses, farmers and farm workers, and government agencies who have a goal of creating a more equitable food system in the North Country. There are about 41 million people in the U.S. receiving SNAP benefits, about 2.8 million people in New York, according to the USDA.

During one of the summits, someone said that SNAP was not being accepted at the local farmers markets.

"Carly helped identify the towns that could benefit the most from having SNAP at the farmers markets," Dan said. "So we identified Elizabethtown, Lake Placid and Saranac Lake."

With approval from the farmers markets in Lake Placid and Saranac Lake, Dan decided to apply to become the SNAP coordinator.

"I took it upon myself," he said. "I said, 'Let's dot it. Let's make it happen.'"

Dan made a three-year commitment to be in charge of the SNAP benefits for those two markets, and even with some headaches from governmental red tape, he said it's been worthwhile.

"I am happy that we did it because we are bringing some new folks to the market who don't usually shop at the farmers market. And if they're shopping in the local grocery stores, like a Hannaford or Tops, there's no reason they can't come to the farmers market and get fresh veggies or bread or fruits."

While they have yet to get one person using SNAP benefits at the Lake Placid farmers market, as of Sept. 12, there have been some repeat SNAP customers in Saranac Lake.

"We're still getting the word out, but we've had some families come and spend 200 dollars or 300 dollars in one day," Dan said.

The Lake Placid Farmers Market is held from 2 to 6 p.m. Wednesday at Jewtraw Park, Station Street, through Oct. 17. The Saranac Lake Farmers Market is held from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at Riverside Park, River Street, through Oct. 13. All the eligible farms at those markets are taking SNAP benefits.

People using SNAP and FMNP benefits at the Lake Placid and Saranac Lake farmers markets need to find the Triple Green Jade Farm booth.

"What happens," Summers said, "is the person who wants to use SNAP at the market goes to that booth, uses the EBT reader like they were at the grocery store to say, 'Well I think I'm going to use about 15 dollars.' So they swipe their SNAP card and get 15 dollars worth of tokens and then the matching FreshConnect dollars. Then they can go to any of the eligible food stands at the market and use them. The individual farmers don't have to be signed up in that case at the farmers market."

Once people swipe their card, Dan or Kimmy will give them tokens to spend at the eligible farm booths. In the last 30 minutes of each market, Juniper Hill Farm will double the value for SNAP, FMNP and FreshConnect purchases as well.

The farmers markets that accept FMNP benefits are Lake Placid, Willsboro (Thursday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.), Elizabethtown (Friday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.), Saranac Lake, Ticonderoga (Saturday, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.), Lewis (Saturday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.) and Keene (Sunday, 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.).

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Retail operations

There are seven fresh-food markets in the Tri-Lakes and Champlain Valley regions that accept SNAP benefits: Green Goddess Natural Market in Lake Placid; Nori's Village Market in Saranac Lake; Keeseville Farmacy; North Country Co-op in Plattsburgh; Village Meat Market in Willsboro; Ernie's Market & Deli in Westport; and Ticonderoga Natural Foods Co-op.

There is one farm stand in the region that accepts SNAP benefits, and that is the Northern Orchard Farm Stand in Peru (May 1 to Dec. 23).

There are more farm stands that accept FMNP benefits: Drinkwine Produce Farm Stand in Ticonderoga (June 1 to Oct. 15), Daughters 5 Farm Stand in Crown Point (June to October); Pray's Family Farm Stand in Keeseville (May 1 to Oct. 31); Applejacks Orchard Farm Stand in Peru (Aug. 24 to Oct. 28); Northern Orchard Farm Stand in Peru (May 1 to Dec. 23); Rulfs Orchard Farm Stand in Peru (year round); and Shady Grove Farm & Wellness Center in Peru (June 15 to Dec. 23).

For more information, contact Carly Summers, Cornell Cooperative Extension agriculture resource educator, at 518-962-4810 ext. 409. Or visit www.adirondackharvest.com to search for local food options.

 
 

 

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