Farmers market program helps provide produce for those who receive food stamps

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Some Utah families in need are getting some extra help thanks to Utahns Against Hunger and a recent grant. For a limited time, families using food stamps at the downtown Salt Lake City farmers market can double their money for groceries.

Salt Lake City resident and mother of two young boys Brianne Christiansen got a pleasant surprise when she arrived to the booth where she picks up her food stamp tokens for the farmers market Saturday morning.

“It was a nice little bonus,” Christiansen said.

Saturday was the first day of Double Up Food Bucks, which allows food stamp customers to match their food stamp benefits, up to $10, to buy additional produce at the farmers market. The extra money is coming from a grant awarded to Utahns Against Hunger.

“People really want to be part of the community and contribute and participate at the farmers market, and having the market take EBT cards gives them a way to do that and keeps those benefits, keeps that money in the community too,” said Gina Cornia, who is the Executive Director of Utahns Against Hunger.

The bonus bucks are for produce only, in hopes more Utah families will get more fruits and veggies.

“Folks have come up, and, you know, they say, 'I’ll have $10' and I say, 'Well, you know, we’re matching up to $10 today' and they’re thrilled because people want to serve their families good nutritious food, and this is a way to help them do that,” Cornia said.

Christiansen appreciates the bonus because feeding a family of four quality food can get expensive while she and her husband try to finish college.

“One of the big concerns is that it’s good produce as well, and something that is really fresh and will last for a while because at the grocery store its most likely been shipped from somewhere and here at the farmers market it’s fresh,” Christiansen said.

Local farmers appreciate the extra business as well

“I think it's fabulous because the more vegetables kids eat, the better and healthier everyone will be," said Tamara Hed, the co-owner of Blue Spring Farm. "And I actually see parents bringing their kids through and letting them pick which vegetables they want for their lunches, and they are excited that they get to choose."

The Double Up Food Bucks program will go until the $2,500 grant runs out, and even then Cornia said it will still be helping Utahns.

“That cash goes to those farmers, and they’re spending it locally, and so that money is getting reinvested in our state, so it’s really--so it’s not only helping to put nutritious food on the table, its helping to support the local economy,” she said.

The Downtown Farmers Market is located in Pioneer Park in Salt Lake City on Saturdays, from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. as well as on Tuesdays from 4:00 p.m. to dusk. Customers interested in participating should simply locate the food stamp booth at the market to learn more about the program and how it works. For more details, visit the farmers market's website.