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Help put fresh, local ingredients in the pantries of families in need

MORE: Read more news from Fredericksburg

Four Fredericksburg-area farmers markets saw a nearly 70 percent increase in the use of SNAP benefits, or food stamps, to buy fresh, local goods in 2012.

That’s according to a report released this week by The Farmers, an organization that includes markets in Fredericksburg, King George and Spotsylvania counties.

That increase–from $12,181 in 2011 to $20,542 in 2012–was likely driven by the $13,782 in matching funds the markets distributed to low-income customers using those benefits.

This program matched the first $10 of SNAP purchases made each week by an individual.

One young mother who was quoted in The Farmers’s report said the program made a big difference in the quality of her family’s diet.

“It’s like having an extra $40 a month for groceries, and double the vegetables,” she said.

SNAP benefits (and credit cards) will still be accepted at this year’s markets, but the grant funds that made the $10  weekly matches possible have run out.

The market managers–who have played a role in helping programs like this to spread throughout Virginia–would like to continue providing some sort of match during the 2013 market season.

They are seeking $20,000 from individuals and groups throughout the community who are interested in helping low-income families to put higher-quality food on the table. That amount would allow the program to continue in its current form.

Beyond the direct impact on what local families eat, the group points out that getting SNAP recipients to spend their money at the farmers markets helps keep more of the $2.5 million in SNAP benefits distributed in these localities in the local economy, as opposed to sending them to a large chain store based somewhere else.

If you’re interested in helping this program continue, visit to learn more.

Read the group’s end-of-season report here. It will give you a good overview of how the partnership among these three markets works and what they are up to.