Pittsburgh’s farmers markets have long been a popular source of seasonal, locally produced, nutritious and affordable food, generally open from May to Thanksgiving. Pittsburgh Citiparks and other local farmers markets attract thousands of shoppers to locations around the city. However, farmers and sustainable food advocates recognize that the real potential of these markets remains untapped. Many local residents are not familiar with the markets or view them as unaffordable for low-income households.
As part of our efforts to fight hunger by expanding access to nutritious food, Just Harvest launched Fresh Access in May 2013, in conjunction with Pittsburgh Citiparks and participating local farmers. This program enables shoppers to use their food stamps via electronic benefit transfer (EBT) to purchase a variety of fresh produce, baked goods, meat and dairy products. Credit and debit cards are also now accepted.
SNAP users can swipe their cards and receive tokens that are accepted by many of the vendors and can be used to purchase food. Those who use the token kiosk for credit and debit card purchases will be asked to contribute $1 per transaction to defray costs of the program.
The Fresh Access program began at the East Liberty and North Side farmers markets before expanding in August 2013 to four other Pittsburgh Citiparks market locations in Beechview, Bloomfield, Carrick, and the South Side. By the end of the 2013 season, total sales topped $42,000, benefiting local farmers and communities. Nearly half (46.2%) of the transactions were for EBT/food stamps.
As of the beginning of the 2014 market season, Fresh Access now operates at a seventh Pittsburgh Citiparks market (in Squirrel Hill) as well as at four other neighborhood markets through partnerships with the Borough of Swissvale, the Lawrenceville Farmers Market, the Bloomfield Development Corporation, and the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership - for a total of 11 participating farmers markets (see the chart in the sidebar).
The Fresh Access program is a coordinated effort with the Pittsburgh Food Policy Council, the City of Pittsburgh, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, the United States Department of Agriculture, and local farmers and vendors.
We hope to see you at a Just Harvest kiosk soon!