Farmers markets care about the issue of hunger

There are several important programs available through farmers markets that can benefit food bank clients. The Farmers Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) provides benefits to seniors and WIC (supplemental nutrition program for women, infants and children) participants.

Important programs that can benefit food bank clients

After Kingston Farmers Market’s new manager Erron Kellner was hired, he called local food banks to discuss the potential for donations from the market. We were grateful to learn Kellner has a heart for people struggling in the community, even continuing his volunteer work at the Port Townsend Food Bank, though he no longer lives there.

There are several important programs available through farmers markets that can benefit food bank clients. The Farmers Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) provides benefits to seniors and WIC (supplemental nutrition program for women, infants and children) participants. WIC recipients receive $20 in benefits at the farmers markets per season, $40 if there are four or more children in the family. Seniors receive $40 per season. If there are two seniors in a household, each will receive the $40 benefit.

Locally, WIC FMNP is administered through Kitsap Community Resources, and Senior FMNP is administered by Meals on Wheels Kitsap, which does the outreach for and processing of program applications. Senior FMNP applications have been available through Kitsap Regional Libraries since April. They are also available at ShareNet. The June 1 deadline will be extended until all vouchers are distributed.

When we spoke with Meals on Wheels Kitsap director Deborah Horn during the last week of May, she said 85 percent of the available vouchers have been distributed. Meals on Wheels even goes the extra step of calling all registrants and reminding them of their vouchers and how to use them. County-wide stats reveal that senior redemption of these vouchers is high, at 85 percent, while WIC redemption at the markets has been lower.

The second benefit is available to SNAP (formerly food stamps) recipients through their EBT cards. West Sound Farmers Markets regional lead Julia Zander, who manages the Bremerton market (and, in an interim capacity, the Suquamish market), has obtained a grant, locally called Fresh Bucks, which will match a portion of EBT spending.

For every $5 EBT spends, there is a $2 match from Fresh Bucks (for fruit and vegetables only). There is no limit to the match. Program participants will need to stop at the market’s information booth to redeem their vouchers and receive tokens for EBT and coupons for Fresh Bucks.

The purpose of Zander’s position as regional lead is explicitly to get more fresh fruits and vegetables into the hands of low-income shoppers via the farmers markets. Her area includes Mason, Jefferson and Clallam counties, as well as Kitsap.

Each market operates a little differently. Some of the markets belong to the Washington State Farmers Market Association; the Kingston market does not. There are hopes of building a more formal county alliance, though it’s clear from Kellner and Zander that information is cooperative.

Kingston Farmers Market currently has three produce vendors through which FMNP vouchers and Fresh Bucks coupons may be redeemed: Nash’s Organic Produce, Sequim; Broken Ground Farm, Hansville; and Old Tarboo Farms, Quilcene, which provides honey.

At the Kingston market, the cost of being a vendor is $20 per day for farmed food and $25 per day for craft vendors. Vendors may come to the first two markets without becoming a member. Beyond that, membership is required, $50 or $40 pre-season. KFM takes no percentage on sales as some markets do.  Currently, they are being rebranded as Kingston Farmer’s Market on the Cove to tie in to the live music also available there.

Market managers generally work full time during the harvest season, and part time for the rest of the year. Markets generally have a board, which may support or direct the manager depending on the situation. Kellner describes the position as making sure vendors have what they need and promoting the market. Zander adds that market days are like “having a separate event every week,” and finds one of the keys to doing well in the position is transparency among all participants.

In Kingston, Kellner confirmed that the presence of the ferry changes the type of patronage the market receives, while Zander echoed that for the Bremerton market held at the ferry terminal (with another at Evergreen Park). Some customers go to a farmers market looking for food, while tourists or those passing through might be more interested in crafts or services.

Kellner is now accepting nonperishable and garden donations for food banks at the information booth, and plans on a raffle for food banks later in the season. End-of-day donations from vendors to the food banks have so far been small, but it is early in the season.

Potential donations from the market build upon our constant efforts to boost client nutrition and make sure the folks we serve have more than nonperishables to eat. Kellner’s offer fits in perfectly with purchases for our Fresh Look program and the wonderful produce donated to us through Kingston Farm and Garden Co-op’s Giving Garden.

In ShareNet’s service area, the Kingston Farmers Market is 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays, and the Suquamish Market is 3-7 p.m. Wednesdays (adjacent to the Masi Shop on 305). An independent market operates at Indianola, 9 a.m. to noon on Saturdays.

— Contact ShareNet executive director Mark Ince at 360-297-2266. ShareNet is located at 26061 United Road, Kingston. The food bank is open 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday and Friday.

The thrift store is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.


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