Entering the Hancock County Farmers’ Market on a windy fall day, a mother and her school-age son were told about a new program allowing SNAP benefits to be used as payment for produce and other food items. The mother looked at her son, beaming. “Now you won’t have to use your birthday money to buy that honey that you like.”
It was the first week of a newly implemented collaboration among United Way of Hancock County, the local Ohio State University Extension office and the farmers’ market, designed to ensure that vulnerable populations have access to fresh, healthy foods. The partnership allows residents of Hancock County’s 3,000 households receiving SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps) benefits to exchange those benefits for tokens accepted by market vendors.
The program launched in 2022 and has been expanded to include Produce Perks, a grant-funded program that provides a 1 to 1 match, up to $25, for every SNAP token spent. Tokens through the USDA-backed Produce Perks program can be spent on fresh fruits and vegetables and may be saved for use later.
Shoppers at the 2023 farmers' market spent nearly $3,000 in SNAP tokens to purchase items including fresh produce, honey, hot sauce, baked goods, food plants and more.
“Bringing this program to our community benefits individuals across many demographics,” said Angela DeBoskey, CEO of United Way of Hancock County. “In addition to increased support of our agricultural community, this program aims to assist vulnerable populations with access to fresh, nutritious food options.”