Choosing Carrots Over Chips Now Easier With Food Stamps

By KBJR News 1

August 18, 2011 Updated Aug 18, 2011 at 9:34 AM CDT

Low income families in Minnesota now have easy and cost effective access to healthy local food...thanks to some new state initiatives.

This year the Minnesota Department of Agriculture worked with farmers' markets across the state to get EBT, otherwise known as food stamp, debit card readers.

If markets buy the machines that can process the debit cards the Department of Agriculture refunds that cost.

Minnesota Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson explains that in the past, technology had been the challenge for farmers' markets in accepting the debit cards used by food-stamp recipients.

"Our Minnesota Department of Agriculture is working with the markets so many of them can get wireless card readers. While it will differ a little bit depending on what market someone goes to, having these readers is going to make everything easier, both for the sellers as well as for the people purchasing the food," Jesson told the Minnesota News Connection.

The Duluth Farmers' market is one of 13 markets in Minnesota currently accepting food stamps.

A market spokesperson says by accepting food stamps they give low income people a chance to choose healthy eating for cheap.

"Grocery stores and convenient stores have cheaper prices on high sugar, high preservative foods where as here at the farmers market they get the opportunity to get fresh produce at a reasonable price," says the person in charge of processing cards at the Duluth market, Emily Miner.

She also says it's another step in building a better, closer-knit community.

"You talk to the people who grow it, providing a sense of community," says Emily.

At the market on 3rd Street and 14th Avenue East, you can visit Emily to charge your credit card and get tokens to work as cash, or those using food stamps can run their government issued EBT card also to be used as cash with a different set of tokens. She explains how the system works.

"The cash tokens are worth five dollars and can be used at any vendor for any item. The EBT tokens are worth a dollar a piece and can be used for any food item and they do have to spend the whole dollar," says Emily.

During the months of August, September and October those who buy at least five dollars worth of tokens with food stamps get an additional five dollars. This program is called "market bucks" and is sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield.

Written for the web by Courtney Godfrey