Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Farmers Market Is Set to Accept Food Stamps

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Farmers Market Is Set to Accept Food Stamps

Article excerpt

ENGLEWOOD: A test run of the program is in the works for early May

ENGLEWOOD -- Those struggling to pay bills and keep food in their pantries will soon have a new way to buy foods fresh from the farm.

The Englewood Farmers Market will become the first in Sarasota County to accept benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps.

Not only will SNAP recipients be able buy Florida-grown produce or vegetables, a state grant would allow them to double the value of their SNAP dollars.

Lee Perron, director of the market, said the Englewood market has spent months working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to set up the program, order a mobile SNAP terminal and train vendors on what items beneficiaries can purchase.

He hopes to have a test run with the SNAP program in early May and for it to be fully operational by the time the market reopens in October after its annual summer hiatus.

"Once we go through all that and know the entire platform is working from A to Z, then we'll officially kick things off," Perron said. "We want this to be an extremely easy thing for them to do and to see the benefit of buying fresh, nutritious food from the farmers market."

The announcement comes at a time when the public has turned its attention to hunger in Sarasota County, especially among children.

A report commissioned by All Faiths Food Bank and the Gulf Coast Community Foundation found that nearly one in four children in Sarasota County are "food insecure," meaning they are unsure about the source and quality of his or her next meal.

Additionally, more than half the students who attend Sarasota County Schools receive government-subsidized free or reduced-price lunches.

Rachelle Lawrence, a South Venice resident who has children ages 3 and 7, said even when money is tight, she always tries to buy fresh food for her children. …

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