Food stamps worth double at Pendleton Farmers Market this month

Sunlight falls on a some cherry tomatoes on display at a booth at the Pendleton Farmers Market.

Food stamps will literally go further than they used to at the Pendleton Farmers Market.

During July, the market and Umatilla County Public Health will offer up to $10 in matching funds for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program recipients who buy fruits, vegetables and other unprepared foods at the weekly market.

Hal McCune, the nonprofit’s president, said the farmers market has accepted SNAP benefits, better known as food stamps, for the past 10 years,

“It really gives some of these folks a lot more buying power than they used to have,” he said.

McCune said market patrons spend about $800 in food stamps every month in an exchange system where money from the SNAP electronic benefits transfer card is exchanged for tokens that can be spent at market stalls.

SNAP users typically save the last of their monthly allotment of benefits for the farmers market, McCune said, but the matching program will allow them to potentially double the budget they can spend at the market.

“It’s like Christmas in July,” he said.

According to a market press release, the Oregon Food Bank conducted a community food-system assessment in Pendleton in March, which identified the farmers market’s SNAP match program as a need. The assessment resulted in a $2,000 grant from the food bank and the county’s health department.

The Pendleton Farmers Market is the only farmers market in Umatilla and Morrow counties that accepts a SNAP card, although the county is also providing funding to the Milton-Freewater Farmers Market to acquire a card machine.

Even though the SNAP match program will close at the end of the month or when the grant funding runs out, McCune said it was an important promotional tool to inform the community that the market accepts food stamps.

SNAP is a federal program under the U.S. Department of Agriculture that provides money for food to low-income families, a majority of which live well below the poverty line.

The USDA has found that $1.84 in gross domestic product is produced for every dollar of SNAP benefits.

McCune said SNAP enjoys support from local food vendors because it allows them to expand their customer base.

The market is 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. every Friday on the 300 block of South Main Street. There will be four markets in July.

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