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Got Green is excited that many Seattle residents who use the Supplemental Nutrition Program (SNAP)/Food Stamps will be getting a healthy boost to help offset the costs of eating more nutritious produce this summer! The City of Seattle has introduced its first ever Fresh Bucks pilot program which will run from August 1-September 30 2012 and open the door for our city to really become more involved in supporting the healthy eating of local residents.

“I don’t use the farmers market often but I’ll start going there because of this program,” said Thuy-An Nguyen, a Southeast Seattle mom, “This encourages me to take time to take my son to the farmers market to see and learn how people grow and sell to make money…It also helps me provide more fresh vegetables to my son and encourages us to have better diets.”

Throughout August and September, everyone making a purchase at any of the seven neighborhood farmers markets with an EBT card will receive $10 in Fresh Bucks per day for the purchase of fruits and vegetables when making a minimum purchase of $10.. Families willing to travel to all the markets can access up to $70 of extra “bucks” each week. Wow!

It seems that Got Green’s Thanksgiving trip to JP Morgan Chase last year did have an effect on Chase deciding to give back to the community some of the money that they receive from EBT card transactions. They are the primary funder of this program! My faith in humanity (and our good work) is being restored this summer!

In March of this year, At one of the City of Seattle’s Our City, Our Food, Our Future listening sessions, Got Green members turned out to stress the importance of equal access to healthy foods and how affordability plays a part in the food choices families make when going out for a purchase.

Lynn Sereda is another Southeast Seattle resident who is thrilled to see the Fresh Bucks program introduced, “As a low income woman, I try hard to make my food stamps last the month, and it is sometimes difficult when buying fresh fruit and vegetables which are expensive…I want to support local agriculture, and eat healthy too, but (before this program) the farmer markets were not affordable for my budget.”

She goes on to praise the work of the women leaders at Got Green for this program, “I remember the Women in the Green Economy event I attended (in September 2011), and remember that access to the Farmer’s Market was an important idea which came up, and I am thankful that Got Green followed up on this, and put forward this idea to the City departments which are involved!  When I went to the Columbia City market on Wednesday, I saw others who had food stamps and were able to double their purchase power! “

My grandmother would tell me in Romanian to “vitimanize” myself with some more of that cantaloupe because summer time is the time for all of us to infuse ourselves with lots of vitamins!  For our family, the farmer’s market will always be a summer tradition and a time to remember that the most important investment to our selves is our health.

Although the Fresh Bucks program is a pilot program, it is really a chance for all of us to take these extra bucks and improve our health. It is also a chance to raise our voices and support a pilot that should be turned into a year-round program. In the first week alone, EBT swipes at farmers markets increased by 150% – showing that when truly given the option, low income families will choose healthy, local produce over other options! Join with Got Green and our Access to Healthy Foods campaign in calling on the City of Seattle and private partners to find a way to keep Fresh Bucks going for the next farmers market season and for seasons to come!

By Ramata Diébaté, Got Green Food Access Team Member

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