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August 1st, 2013

Press Release: Suitland Farmers Market Launches Incentive Program

by Amy Crone

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

July 30th 2013

CONTACT: Michele Levy

410-929-1645

SUITLAND FARMERS’ MARKET LAUNCHES PROGRAM TO DOUBLE EBT PURCHASES

SUITLAND, Md. (July 24, 2013). Eat Fresh Maryland is pleased to partner with the Suitland Farmers’ Market on a “Maryland Market Money” program that doubles the value of federal nutrition benefits used to purchase local food. A new wireless electronic benefit transfer (EBT) machine allows the market to accept SNAP benefits (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as Food Stamps). The market will also welcome Farmers Market Nutrition Program (Women, Infants & Children “WIC” or Seniors), and WIC Fruit and Vegetable Check benefits. When a market shopper presents his or her SNAP Independence Card or federal benefit check, they will receive Maryland Market Money vouchers to match their benefit.

“Residents of Prince George’s County will be able to double the value of their EBT and nutrition benefits by getting twice the amount of fresh, local produce at the Suitland market. Farmers market incentive programs like this have proven to be successful across the country, as well as in Maryland. Market Money is a win-win program that increases buying power for the customer and income for the farmer.” – Michele Levy, Director of Eat Fresh Maryland.

This is the first year of the Suitland Farmers Market, organized by the Suitland Technology Education Engagement Resource (STEER) Center, Inc. of Prince George’s County with assistance from the community-based nonprofit growingSOUL. The goal of the market is to improve food access and have a positive impact on community and individual health. Open each Tuesday from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. rain or shine at 4508 Suitland Road, the market offers fresh fruits and vegetables and other food options. The market is located within walking distance of the Federal Center, and is easily accessible by Metro or bus lines.

Many families in Prince George’s County struggle to afford sufficient food for their families to eat. Three out of five County children receive free or reduced-price meals at school, and household participation in SNAP has more than doubled in the last five years. Also, residential areas nearby the Suitland Farmers Market (such as District Heights, Morningside and Seat Pleasant) have been classified as “food deserts” by the USDA. Residents of food deserts are often under served by full-service grocery stores, over served by fast food restaurants and convenience stores, and lack adequate access to affordable, healthy food.

“The Suitland Farmers Market will make it more convenient and affordable for community members in surrounding areas to buy fresh fruits and vegetables and other items to feed their family.  The Market will offer nutritional and environmental education programs for market participants.  We are striving to increase overall health and well-being in food desert communities,” said Sylvia Quinton, Director of STEER.

The Maryland Market Money initiative is one of seven strategies aimed at reducing chronic disease rates in Prince George’s County funded by the Institute for Public Health Innovation (IPHi) through a Community Transformation Grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Eat Fresh Maryland (a program of the Crossroads Community Food Network) and the newly formed Maryland Farmers Market Association Program are providing support and technical assistance to implement the program.

“The addition of this market token and incentive program increases access and affordability of healthy, food to area residents with lower incomes and stimulates market success by making it easier for customers to make purchases,” said Evelyn Kelly, Program Manager with IPHi. “We look forward to supporting the expansion of these programs throughout the County to increase healthy eating and address obesity rates.”

For a complete list of all Maryland farmers markets go to http://mda.maryland.gov/maryland_products/Pages/farmers_market_dir.aspx. For more information on the Suitland Farmers Market visit http://www.suitlandonline.us/.

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About the Author Amy Crone Amy Crone

Amy’s passion for food starting in her aunt & uncle’s garden, a lovely log cabin by a NH lake where she first learned to preserve and pickle. She has always wanted to help people, and completed her degrees in international development in hopes of combining this interest with her love of travel. After working in the field of international development, then in federal government, then in a think tank, and then in state government, Amy decided that she wanted to explore explore her entrepreneurial interests. These included: starting a nonprofit (MDFMA), developing a national technology solution to provide farmers market and farmers access to accepting SNAP, building several websites, and becoming a Board member in local organizations. She is happy to be able to follow her passion of improving local food systems and the health of all Marylanders by getting them to buy more fresh local food at Maryland farmers markets. Amy’s other main interests are her husband & 2 children, Crossfitting, and traveling to any location that has interesting and delicious ~preferably local~ food.