Monday, June 23, 2014

Ore. food-stamp recipients get paid to eat healthy; tokens buy fruits and veggies at farmers' markets

The five-year Farm Bill included a $100 million program that will give farmers' markets up to $20 million a year to help Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Plan (food stamp) recipients buy more fruits and vegetables. The idea is already paying off for low-income families in Oregon, where about 20 percent of residents receive food stamps, with more than 792,000 in the program, Yuxing Zheng reports for The Oregonian in Portland.

At a farmers' market, a food-stamp recipient gets five tokens, each worth $1 to use towards buying fruits and vegetables. "The program is part of a relatively new approach to answer a question: Does it work to pay poor people extra so they can afford to eat healthier? The data seem to indicate that it does," Zheng writes. "And it probably won't be long before matching programs spread nationwide." (Zheng photo: Exchanging tokens for vegetables in Forest Grove, Ore.)

SNAP recipient Delona Thies, who receives $348 a month in food stamps for her and her 16-year-old son, told  Zheng, "I believe it makes a difference, even if it is just $5. An extra $5 a week is $20 a month. I never have enough to last until the end, so everything helps."

Even before the bill passed, Oregon was already addressing the need to find better ways for food stamps recipients to eat healthy, through programs run by non-profits that rely heavily on local donations, Zheng writes. "In recent years, farmers markets across Oregon have teamed up with businesses and nonprofits to start matching programs for food stamps recipients. The benefits, supporters say, are twofold: Poor people eat healthier while supporting local farmers." (Read more)

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