CISA Launches $100K Farmers Market Initiative for SNAP Recipients

The Recorder, March 3rd, 2016, by Domenic Poli.

Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture wants to raise $100,000 this month to help people on SNAP benefits to buy more local food.

The nonprofit aims to generate $100,000 in a campaign it calls Local Food For All by March 31, to match state food stamp SNAP purchases up to $10 at farmers’ markets and through CISA’s SNAP & Save program. The money would also help serve 450 low-income elders through CISA’s Senior FarmShare program.

CISA Development Director Alexis Schneeflock said there are more than 140,000 people — many of them children — who receive SNAP benefits in the Pioneer Valley’s three counties (Franklin, Hampden and Hampshire). She said CISA hopes to have the $100,000 by March 31 so it is in hand by the time spring farmers’ market start.

Schneeflock said SNAP users who visit farmers’ markets will decide how much they wish to spend and that money (up to $10) will be doubled by money CISA has disseminated to the markets through donations. She said farmers’ markets operate differently one from another, but SNAP users will likely be given tokens or chips to use as money.

“It really is neighbors helping neighbors,” Schneeflock said. “It goes to support the vibrancy of our entire community.”

Schneeflock said this is a bridge program until a state program to fulfill this initiative kicks in next year. Tax-deductible donations can be made online here, by writing a check paid to the order of CISA, or by calling CISA at 413-665-7100.

Schneeflock said the Local Food For All initiative is not related to a federal welfare law, which went back in effect in January, that could result in 450 Franklin County people losing food assistance benefits unless they are able to meet new federal work requirements by March.

CISA Executive Director Philip Korman said the organization’s SNAP & Save program was started last summer (matching the first $5) and the Senior FarmShare began in 2004.

“We realized it was important to make that opportunity available to all farmers’ markets that wanted to participate in the three counties,” he said. “So we figured out the resources we needed to increase the Senior FarmShare from 400 to 450 and what it would take for a $10 match (for Local Food For All).”

Korman said the initial $50,000 was raised in early Feburary and included a $10,000 contribution from PeoplesBank. He said there are several guiding principles behind this initiative, most notably strenghening farms and helping the local food economy.

“It’s a broken community if local farmers grow food and … people don’t have access to food that is grown, literally, in their community,” Korman said.

He said donations to the Local Food For All initiative will ensure more dollars circulate through the economy. He said more money will get funneled to local farmers, who will then spend it in the area.

Korman said only about $366,000 of the state’s SNAP benefits is spent at farmers’ markets.