SNAP cardholders can now buy fresh farm products

Local farmers' markets will soon have another payment option: SNAP benefit cards.

The program, paid for by a Florida Organic Growers grant, will allow low-income county residents to use their SNAP cards, formerly food stamps, to buy fresh and locally produced foods.

Florida Organic Growers will use EBT technology at the Union Street Farmers' Market and Alachua County Farmers' Market.

Christine Hale, the group's education and outreach director, said she hopes access to fresh produce will change food habits.

"Obesity is just through the roof in our community," she said. "If we can get them eating fresh fruits and veggies at a young age, we can curb that obesity."

The High Springs Farmers' Market is the only market in the county to currently use EBT.

The program should begin by mid-December. Florida Organic Growers will operate the EBT scanner at both markets. Users would designate an amount to spend, and the group will double it. Users could then spend their tokens on products allowed by the SNAP program, and vendors would redeem their tokens at the nonprofit's booth.

The group also will be enrolling people for SNAP benefits.

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