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Dear Aggie

I am on a fixed income and receive nutrition assistance but want to buy fresh local foods. Is that possible?

The answer is a resounding Yes!

There is a common misconception that locally grown and organic foods are expensive, luxury items. In fact, the opposite is quite often true.Fresh, local produce bought in season is usually a better value for the money than out-of-season products shipped across the country (or the world). Local farm stands, farmers markets, food hubs, and CSAs (consumer supported agriculture) can provide tremendous value.In fact, one of the biggest complaints about CSA shares during the growing season is that growers often provide more produce than a family can immediately use (but freezing or canning it for later is a great solution!). Even in the winter, growers have locally grown potatoes, carrots, winter squash, apples, salad greens, and more, often at prices comparable to large supermarkets.

There are a number of nutrition programs in place to ensure access to local foods.Many farmers markets accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.For example, Watertown’s Farm and Craft Market on Wednesdays accepts SNAP benefits on behalf of all the farmers. If you are interested in using your EBT card, visit the Market Manager’s tent first to pick up tokens that can be used to purchase local products, like fruits, vegetables, eggs, vegetable plants, breads, and dairy products!

Have you heard of the Farmers Market Nutrition Program (FMNP)? The Women, Infants, and Children program and Seniors FMNP distribute coupons that can be spent on fresh, local produce at farmers markets and farm stands. Many of the farmers at farmers markets throughout the county accept these vouchers, including at Watertown’s Wednesday & Saturday markets. Are you curious whether you qualify for FMNP coupons? WIC participants receive these coupons in addition to regular benefits, visit https://www.fns.usda.gov/wic to determine your eligibility! Eligible seniors may receive FMNP coupons at housing and community sites, call Jefferson County Office for the Aging at (315) 785-3191 to request coupons and apply for benefits.

You can also use the Jefferson County Local Food Guide to find farm stands and CSAs that accept EBT/FMNP coupons as payment for local food products. Visit ccejefferson.org/localfoods and click the link on the right to visit the Jefferson County Local Foods Guide.

There is an application process that farmers need to go through in order to accept SNAP/FMNP benefits and many times, a farmer may not know that there are members of their community who are interested in using EBT/FMNP coupons. The first step is to ask if the farmer accepts those forms of payment! If they don’t currently, knowing that customers are interested in supporting their business may encourage them to apply to accept more payment options. You can also encourage farmers to connect with educators at Cornell Cooperative Extension for assistance accepting these payment options!

Question answered by Hannah Alday. Contact her at hea9@cornell.edu or 315-788-8450 ext. 280. 

Contact

Michael Nuckols
Local Foods & Horticulture Program Manager
msn62@cornell.edu
315-788-8450 ext. 227

Last updated May 26, 2021