Local farmers markets accepting food assistance benefits help families facing food insecurity

Hunger Action Month, which takes place in September, is a national movement to increase awareness of hunger and the resources that help to combat it within our communities.

In 2018, data published in Feeding America’s study “Map the Meal Gap” found that in Bay County 13.6% of residents were experiencing food insecurity. The organization predicts that food insecurity rates across Michigan will increase to 21% due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many mid-Michigan farmers markets are doing their part to combat hunger by making fresh, local produce accessible by accepting food assistance benefits at their markets.

The Auburn Farmers Market accepts WIC Project FRESH and Senior Project FRESH/Market FRESH coupons. Kids between 4 and 14 who visit the market can take advantage of MunchCash, which allows them to buy fresh fruit, vegetables, eggs, and honey. In 2020, the Auburn Farmers Market raised and distributed $545 in MunchCash.

Next year, the Auburn Farmers Market expects to begin accepting Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), a program administered by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) that provides low-income families and individuals with benefits to make healthy food more affordable, says Market Manager Robin Devereaux-Nelson. To learn more about programs at the market, visit its Facebook page.

According to Carol Moody, Market Manager for the Mount Pleasant Farmers’ Market, they began accepting SNAP at the market in 2014.

“It just made sense to offer this option because it helps so many people,” says Moody. “Not just the shoppers, but also the vendors.”

In addition to SNAP, the Mount Pleasant Farmers’ Market also accepts Pandemic EBT, Double Up Food Bucks (DUFB), WIC Project FRESH, and Senior Project FRESH/Market FRESH coupons.

Moody says that if someone is using their bridge card at the market for the first time, they will often give the shoppers some tips.

“Any food items that you would typically buy at the grocery store, that are available at the farmers market, you can use your bridge card tokens for,” says Moody. “If you're buying fruits and vegetables anyway, use those DUFB tokens first. Those are specific to fruits and vegetables, whereas your SNAP tokens can be used for any food item.”

Program participants come to the market booth and swipe their card to receive tokens that may be used at eligible vendors. Tokens are given in $2 increments and if shoppers happen to get more tokens than what they need, they can be refunded for what they haven’t spent.

The Midland Area Farmers Market also accepts food assistance benefits including DUFB, SNAP/Bridge Cards, Senior Project FRESH/Market FRESH, WIC Project Fresh, and Prescription for Health.

“It’s a great way to engage more people and make it better for everybody by breaking down barriers for more people to participate and make good, healthy purchases,” says Emily Lyons, Market Manager for the Midland Area Farmers Market.

For more information about food assistance, or to apply for SNAP/EBT, call (888) 544-8773 or visit newmibridges.michigan.gov.

Auburn Farmers Market
Open 3 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays through Sept. 29.
200 Jaycees Drive (inside Auburn City Park)

Mount Pleasant Farmers’ Market:

June 4 through Oct. 29
Thursdays from 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Island Park’s South Shelter
June 20 through Oct. 10
Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Town Center (Broadway and Main Street)

Midland Area Farmers Market:
May 1 through Oct. 31
Wednesdays and Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Nov, 7, 14, and 21
9 a.m. to 12 p.m.
825 East Main Street Midland, MI 48640