Market Bucks Program Could Be on the Chopping Block

April 19, 2017 10:42 PM

(ABC 6 News) -- While the state legislature tries to hammer out funding for the next budget, there are concerns over a program being left out: the Market Bucks program.



It's a program that provides money for fresh produce to people who qualify for food stamp benefits. The lack of funding could affect families and farmers markets across the state.

"It's a wonderful incentive to come to a farmers market and purchase fresh foods," Eyota Farmers Market Organizer Iris Neumann said.  


Neumann said attendance increased five-fold in 2016 after Electronic Benefit Transfer users were bumped up from $5 to $10 in Market Bucks.


"We increased our number of EBT customers dramatically," Neumann said.


Hunger Solutions, which runs the Market Bucks program, said 36 more farmers markets around Minnesota participated in the program in 2016 than 2015, which brought in 3,400 new customers.

"It's kind of like getting a coupon and going to the department store and getting $20 off of $50. It's that kind of an incentive," Neumann said.  


Eyota Mayor Tyrel Clark said the program connects many low-income people with farmers in their communities and benefits their nutrition.


"[I think] for those people it's really a life line," Clark said. "I know in Rochester, at their farmers market, they have a lot more people who utilize this and it's a much bigger deal."


The Rochester Farmers Market did about $25,000 worth of business in Market Bucks last year.


And while Eyota may not see as much business as Rochester, Clark said the program is achieving good things across the state, and doesn't want the program to lose funding.


"For those who are in that position, our senators and our representatives, they know how important that these are not only to our farmers' market but those citizens that really depend on those bucks to fill their fridge," Clark said.   

There is still some hope for a compromise at the capitol. The Senate Conference Committee meets Friday.


Elise Romas

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