By Lindsey Seavert, WCCO-TV

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Many of Minnesota’s farmers markets expect more customers this year after the USDA approved a program that allows consumers to pay with food stamps.

The Midtown Farmers Market in Minneapolis opened Saturday, and says that on the first day of the season more than a dozen customers signed up to use their Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card to buy food.

“You can get fresh crops, fresh fruit, from the farmer; it doesn’t get any better than that,” said Catherine Pearson, a new customer from Elk River, Minn.

This is how it works: Customers swipe their card and receive tokens to spend on produce. The Minneapolis Department of Health and Family Services is also offering an incentive – $5 extra for people who spend their EBT card on local food this summer.

The Minneapolis Farmers Market on Lyndale Avenue will accept food stamps starting next Saturday at 7 a.m.

“It just caught on amazingly,” said Sandy Hill, the EBT manager at the Lyndale Avenue farmers market.

Hill says a three month trial run last summer drew more than 1,000 customers, but with a May kickoff, Hill expects three times as many people to use EBTs this year. The Minneapolis Farmers Market spent a year working with the USDA before launching the program, according to Hill.

“We are considered a desert spot, there is not enough produce for people in the community here, this is an attribute for them, they are thrilled to be able to come down here and buy it,” Hill said.

The cost effective solution also gives local farmers a boost, but Hill believes most importantly, it nourishes people in need.

“It’s piece of mind, it is fresh, coming from the maker,” said Pearson, who said she’ll be back next Saturday to shop for her family.

The Minnesota Department of Human Services says 13 of the state’s roughly 140 farmers markets now accept food stamps, and dozens more are expected to follow.

Comments (9)
  1. Aurora says:

    My first instinct was to be angry about this- I’m generally angry about food stamps anyway. However, after some thought, I kind of like this idea. At least my tax dollars will be supporting local farmers and providing wholesome food to families. After such a beautiful day today, I’m kind of putting a rosy spin on things. Ask me how I feel about it on Monday. 🙂

    1. JT says:

      Aurora…why would you be angry about a program that puts fresh fruits and vegetables on the plates of families in need instead of microwave dinners, candy, and sugary drinks?

  2. 56001 says:

    The Mankato Farmers Market is offering this EBT program. I’m so excited!! There’s nothing like super fresh veggies!

  3. Victim Du Jour says:

    Sounds Like an opportunity for a marijuana or drug dealer.

    “I’ll take some of that good spinach everyone is talking about (wink wink)”

  4. Todd says:

    A friend told me there’s a guy there paying $ for the tokens at a reduced cost. How can this be OK. These people are selling their benefits for cash. They walk away with cash now for who knows what. The token buyer gets what? Food at a reduced price. Is this a new form of scalping? Whats the motivation?

  5. BB says:

    I think this is great, needy families have a healthy alternative and supports the local farmers and businesses. For all those that complain about food stamps being used for candy, pop etc. this should make you happy. But some just assume that those on food stamps abuse the program anyways and they will never be happy.

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