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Grants will make farmers markets accessible to more families

MORE: Read more news from Fredericksburg

The Farmers Market Co., a coalition made of up the King George, Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania farmers markets, has won two grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture totalling $118,400.

You can read earlier coverage of this grant effort here.

The biggest thing this money will do is help low-income families buy fresh local produce through a program that allows SNAP food assistance benefits to be used at farmers markets, and provides matching funds to allow families to double their SNAP money (up to $10 a week) at the market.

This same technology allows all customers to use their credit cards to purchase tokens to use at the market.

From a release on the grants:

“We are building vibrant community Farmers Markets by increasing access and affordability of fresh, local foods,” said Elizabeth Borst, Spotsylvania Farmers Market Manager and Regional Program Leader.  “Local investment in our markets has been leveraged to attract federal funds to further build our local food system, paying forward threefold by nourishing the consumer, boosting the farmer’s revenues and uplifting the community as a whole.”

The ability to use both SNAP benefits and credit cards has benefited the markets’ bottom lines. Spotsylvania Extension Agent John Howe said that SNAP and credit sales have pumped $50,000 in new revenue into the three markets this season.

“Continued support for this program will ensure that more people can access our markets and that more family farms stay in food production in our region,” Howe said.

The markets hope to reach more low-income families with these grants. From the release:

The Fredericksburg region has an average poverty rate of 11.42 percent. From 2007 to 2009, SNAP usage in this area grew an average of 50 percent. $2.5 million in federal nutrition benefits is distributed each month to 18,745 people in Spotsylvania, Fredericksburg and King George County.

Read the full press release here.