Expansion of Farmers Market Programs for Low-Income Minnesotans Increase Access to Fresh, Healthy and Affordable Food

More than 50 farmers markets across Minnesota to accept EBT this growing season; continuation of Market Bucks program increases SNAP recipients' buying power

May 16, 2013, 15:27 ET from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota

EAGAN, Minn., May 16, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Access to fresh, healthy, affordable food just got easier for more low-income Minnesotans, thanks to a collaborative effort by rural and urban farmers markets, the Minnesota Department of Human Services and the Center for Prevention at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota (Blue Cross). More than 50 markets across Minnesota will accept Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards this growing season—almost doubling the number that participated last year— enabling more Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants to purchase vegetables, fruits and other eligible products directly from their local farmers.  

For the fourth consecutive year, SNAP participants can also stretch their dollars further with a special incentive from Blue Cross that matches EBT card purchases with up to an additional $5 in "Market Bucks" each market day. Market Bucks can be used during the same trip or anytime during the 2013 market season, on SNAP-eligible purchases.

"We know many people want to make healthier choices for themselves and their families, but the challenge is making the healthy choice easy and accessible for everyone," said Janelle Waldock, director of the Center for Prevention at Blue Cross. "Enabling SNAP participants to use their EBT card at their neighborhood farmers market provides them greater access to fresh fruits and vegetables, creates a sense of community and can build demand for further public health improvements at a neighborhood level—which is especially important in areas with significant health disparities." 

The installation of terminals to accept EBT at farmers markets has grown slowly since Minnesota's food support program moved from paper stamps to electronic form in 1998. Implementing technology that allows SNAP participants to use their benefits at farmers markets provides them access to goods which may otherwise not be readily available, especially in neighborhoods that lack a full service grocery store. It also creates a new customer base for markets and an economic boost when new SNAP benefits are redeemed.

"More than 500,000 Minnesotans, many of them children, access SNAP," said Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson. "SNAP is the first line of defense against hunger. It provides the much-needed, temporary help with food to enable low-income Minnesotans to put nutritious meals on their tables. By expanding access at farmers markets, we hope this encourages healthier eating and lifestyles for Minnesotans."

Visit preventionminnesota.com to see a full list of farmers markets across Minnesota that are accepting EBT and participating in the Market Bucks program this season. 

To determine your eligibility for SNAP, call The MN Food HelpLine at 1-888-711-1151.

About the Center for Prevention
The Center for Prevention at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota delivers on Blue Cross' long-term commitment to improve the health of all Minnesotans by tackling the leading root causes of preventable disease: tobacco use, lack of physical activity and unhealthy eating. Funded through proceeds from Blue Cross' historic lawsuit against the tobacco industry, we collaborate with organizations statewide to help build vibrant communities where healthy choices are easier and more accessible. Learn more at preventionminnesota.com.

About Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota (bluecrossmn.com), with headquarters in the St. Paul suburb of Eagan, was chartered in 1933 as Minnesota's first health plan and continues to carry out its charter mission today as a health company: to promote a wider, more economical and timely availability of health services for the people of Minnesota. Blue Cross is a not-for-profit, taxable organization. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, headquartered in Chicago.

SOURCE Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota