Until recently, some families were shut out of our local foods bounty because there was no way to use state food assistance programs to make purchases at local farmers markets. Machines to process the cards were expensive and required phone and electrical lines, which can be a challenge for open-air markets. With the help of state grants and wireless machines, over 65 Ohio farmers markets now accept the Ohio Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT), known as the Ohio Direction Card.
To help food assistance customers even more, 19 farmers markets in Northeast Ohio offer the Double Value Coupon Program, in a new partnership with Countryside Conservancy, ClevelandCuyahoga County Food Policy Coalition and a national funding and learning network, Wholesome Wave. Known as Carrot Cash in Summit County and Produce Perks in Cuyahoga County, the program offers a dollar-for-dollar match up to $10 in Cuyahoga County or $20 in Summit County when customers shop at any participating farmers market using their Ohio Direction Card. These extra market tokens can be only used to purchase fresh, local produce at the market.
Ashley Shaw, manager of the Downtown Farmers Market at Public Square in Cleveland, has seen the benefit of the initiative at her market. “Produce Perks has helped increase the buying power for our regular shoppers using food assistance but has also attracted new shoppers to the markets. The program gets healthy food into the hands of families who may not otherwise have access to it and boosts sales for our farmers.”
A full list of participating markets is available at jfs.ohio.gov/ofam/pdf/FMContactList.pdf.