Rachel Bergman is sitting at the information table located just inside the main entrance at the Harmony School. She’s bundled up to protect herself from the draft that accompanies every new customer to the Bloomington Winter Farmers Market.
As the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) coordinator, she is in charge of the cash box full of wooden nickels that represent $1.00 in food stamps. This is the first year the Bloomington Winter Farmers Market has accepted SNAP, and thanks to an anonymous donor, they are offering sort of a two-for-one deal — SNAP dollars are doubled for customers shopping at the market.
“What that means is if you want to spend $20.00 at the market, I only have to take $10.00 away from your monthly allotment of food stamps,” explains Bergman.
Food For All
Organizers are hoping this means more people from diverse economic backgrounds will be encouraged to shop at the market. Katie Zukof is on the advisory council for the Bloomington Winter Farmers Market. She hopes this program ensures that no one is priced out of buying local foods.
“We don’t want this really high quality, fresh and often organic food to be only available to the wealthiest people in Bloomington,” she says.
Weekly Shopping Trip
I caught up with a regular farmers market shopper who uses her SNAP benefits to buy milk, bread, eggs and salad greens for her family. She wishes to remain anonymous because of the stigma attached to food assistance.
We’ve stopped at the Trader’s Point Creamery Table like she does every week. She says that if not for the market’s program of doubling her SNAP benefits, she wouldn’t be able to afford their yogurt, which costs $5.00.
She also purchased some fresh herbs from another vendor today. At $4.00-$5.00 a bag, that’s a luxury item for her family, but it makes a huge difference in her cooking.
“People say it’s so much more expensive to buy organic, local, fresh or quality. It’s not, because you eat less because the food is higher quality, tastes better and is more satisfying,” she says.
More: The program of doubled SNAP benefits will continue into the spring and summer when the market moves outside. The Bloomington Winter Farmers Market is open through March on Saturday mornings, 9:00am to noon.