Fairgrounds Farmers Market now accepting EBT cards for food

Fairgrounds Farmers Market now accepting EBT cards for food
June 08
03:00 2017

Healthy eating just got easier for many low-income families in Forsyth County.

Vendors at the Farmer’s Market at the Dixie Classic Fairgrounds are now accepting EBT (electronic benefit transfer) cards by way of tokens that SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program) participants can use to purchase fresh vegetables, meats, and other food products.

May 20 was the first Saturday that the program was in operation, but a kick-off event will be held in June to promote the program to area residents. A training session for market vendors held on May 18 acquainted farmers with procedures for accepting the tokens that are exchanged for cash received from EBT cards.

According to Ed McNeil, director of communications for the City of Winston-Salem, more than 1,500 SNAP users are located within a one-mile radius of the fairgrounds. The city will be promoting the new program through digital and social media, such as Facebook and Instagram, as well as newspaper ads and flyers at local food pantries.

The procedure is simple. Customers come to the market office and use their cards to withdraw amounts from their EBT cards that they anticipate using to purchase produce or other food products from vendors. The market then gives them tokens valued at $1 each in exchange for their money. Customers then pay for purchases from vendors with the tokens, and at the end of the day, the vendors return the tokens to the market office, where they submit a request for payment in the amount of the tokens they received.

All vendors at the Dixie Classic Farmer’s Market must accept the tokens; however, they can only be used to purchase foods that will be taken home or eaten off site. Produce, meat, bread, bakery goods, cereal, dairy, jams, jellies, pickles, honey, plants and seeds that produce edible food such as tomato plants, and ground coffee in bags can all be purchased using the tokens. Items such as pastries or cups of coffee that customers consume on site cannot be purchased with tokens.

Vendors cannot give change back from tokens, so if a customer purchases $4.50 worth of product and uses five tokens ($5 in value), they will not receive 50 cents back. However, if they purchase $4.50 worth of product and use four tokens ($4) plus $1 cash, the vendor can give 50 cents back, which would come from the cash presented, not the token.

The vendors were given an opportunity to try out the new procedure by “selling” greens to a SNAP customer who volunteered to be their test customer. Several vendors participated in the role play, either with an even exchange for tokens, or when there would be change involved. They appreciated the opportunity to test the system at the training, and then during the “soft opening” on May 20 to feel comfortable with the program before the kickoff later in June.

Cobblestones Market, which is open on Saturdays at Old Salem, also accepts EBT cards, but their tokens are a different color. Customers cannot use tokens from the Fairgrounds Farmers Market at Cobblestones or vice versa. However, if customers do not use all their tokens in one visit, they can continue to use them on future visits or return the tokens at the market office to have the money returned to their EBT card.

Vendors were positive about not only how this program will help their business, but how it will provide an opportunity for low-income people to eat fresh, healthy food.

Sharon Hill of Hill Family Farm in Germanton is a new vendor at the Farmer’s Market. She and her husband both work full-time jobs, but also work on their family farm with the goal of farming fulltime after retirement.

Hill commented, “I feel positive because I want to eat healthy food and support local farmers and I like giving this option to make healthy choices to others.” Hill Family Farm sells hot peppers, jams, wheat bread and their signature habanero strawberry jam at the Farmer’s Market.

Lynne Mitchell, community nutritionist with the Forsyth County Department of Public Health, was pleased with the response of the vendors at the training session.

“I am excited about this program because it improves access to fresh food for low-income people in our community.”

The Farmers Market at the Dixie Classic Fair grounds is open every Saturday from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. Entrance is through the parking area off 27th street.  Follow them on Facebook at WS Fairgrounds Farmers Market.

Submitted photo- Kim Eyer of Mill River Farm, and Isha Summers practice paying with cash and tokens at the Farmer’s Market vendors training.

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