Reporting Sarah Arbogast
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — From farm fresh fruits and vegetables to flowers and even homemade baked goods, a lot of people are looking forward to the return of farmers’ markets.
This year, you’ll find all the usual goodies but you may run into more shoppers. That’s because, for the first time, two CitiParks markets will accept food stamps.
Employees with the Just Harvest organization, a non-profit working to end hunger and poverty, worked with the city to make it happen.
“It’s pretty unacceptable that people with food stamps haven’t had access to the fresh, local foods that are available there,” said Emily Schmidlapp, of Just Harvest.
The new program, called Fresh Access, will be available at the markets on the North Side and in East Liberty. There’s a plan to eventually expand to all seven markets around town.
“How it works is there is a Just Harvest tent at each market, and if you want to pay with any kind of card, you just come up and swipe your card and you get issued wooden tokens,” says Schmidlapp.
They’ll be in 50 cent increments for food stamp shoppers and $1 for everyone else.
Customers will hand over the tokens just like cash. Participating vendors will display the signs.
With 160,000 people on food stamps in Allegheny County alone, the program is expected to be pretty popular.
The program will also allow customers to pay with debit and credit cards.
“It benefits families, it benefits single people, it benefits farmers who will be able to sell to one in seven people in the county who are on food stamps who currently they can’t as customers,” Ken Regal, the executive director of Just Harvest, said.
The first CitiParks farmers’ market is Monday on Penn Circle West in East Liberty.