One Eau Claire farmers market program aims to increase access to fresh local food

Updated: Aug. 1, 2022 at 6:00 PM CDT
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - Back in 2015, the Eau Claire Downtown Farmers Market started the Market Match Program.

It’s working to help those on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as SNAP.

“The Market Match Program gives people with the SNAP card or on FoodShare the opportunity to purchase fresh, local, healthy foods at the farmers market,” Eau Claire Downtown Farmers Market manager Deidra Barrickman said.

Barrickman says the program works by exchanging money on your SNAP card for tokens that can then be used around the farmers market.

“Along with that, we give an incentive buy,” Barrickman said. “They’ll swipe their card, let’s say for $10, we’ll give an additional $10 to them.”

Even if you’re not on a food assistance program, Barrickman says anyone who needs some “cash” at the market can buy tokens. However, If you do not have a SNAP or FoodShare card you do not receive additional money.

“I think the main reason that we wanted to do that was so it wouldn’t stigmatize the people that are using their FoodShare cards because we don’t want them to feel embarrassed or anything about that,” Barrickman said.

Volunteer Nancy Coffey says there are two different colored tokens to differentiate what can be brought.

“Because if you are participating in SNAP, you can only purchase food,” Coffey said. “That is fruits, vegetables, not a cup of coffee, not an egg roll, not flowers.”

With the help of volunteers like Coffey as well as volunteer UW-Eau Claire economics students, the program has gained momentum over the years.

“They’re using it as a project, research project,” Barrickman said. “But however, I think it’s a good experience for them overall to, you know, interact with people in our community and also to see the need for people to have a food share card.”

Coffey has been a part of the Market Match Program since the beginning. She says she’s seen how much the program has expanded.

“It has grown to the point that we now need $25,000 annually of private donation,” Coffey said.

Becoming a space for those going through a financial rough patch to have access to fresh, local produce.

“It’s really a wonderful feeling to know that anyone can come to the market and feel the community that you see around us,” Coffey said. “Sometimes we don’t realize that not everybody can access things that are our fun and feel part of the community.”

Coffey says the program is also another opportunity to re-invest in the community.

“One is that we have local food that is very, very fresh and two is it helps our vendors in our community as well because the dollars are staying here,” Coffey said.

Market Match Program tokens can be purchased once a week on any day the Eau Claire Downtown Farmers Market is open.

The tokens never expire and if you don’t use them all in one visit, you can save them for next time.

They will be available through September.

For more information, click here.

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