The Berea Farmer's Market is helping low-income families stretch their limited resources to buy fresh, local food.
Open on Tuesdays and Saturdays, the Farmer's Market is now accepting electronic benefits cards used by food stamp recipients along with other debit cards. It also offers Market Bucks vouchers and Double Dollars for those using electronic benefit cards. "Madison County has a high poverty rate, and people in poverty are often disenfranchised from good, fresh food. This is a way for the farmer's market to be part of the solution," says Drew Elliott, president of the Farmer's Market Board.
Market Bucks are $10 vouchers distributed through Madison County non-profits to residents in need to use at the farmer's market.
The Double Bucks program allows anyone who is on food stamps to use their electronic debit card, or seniors who get supplemental food vouchers, to buy food — and the farmer's market will match their purchase up to $10.
"They bring us their card and we will match it dollar for dollar," said market manager Margie Stelzer.
Stelzer said in total, the programs will provide about $10,000 worth of fresh food to residents.
Both programs are made possible through a community-wide collaboration that includes Union Church, the Berea College Service Learning program as well as the University of Kentucky School of Public Health and Wellcare.
Stelzer said there is hope the Double Dollars program, which started in July, can continue to gain support from other community partners.
She's already seen it make a difference.
"There was a family with a couple of kids, they'd never been to the farmer's market," she said. "The whole family was so excited that they were going to have access to this fresh food.
"It's a whole new experience for them," she said.
Accepting electronic benefits is a trend at farmer's markets across the country. The Lexington Farmer's market has had a program in place since 2010.