The following statement was issued by the Office of Mayor William Peduto earlier today.
The City of Pittsburgh is joining with Just Harvest to promote a healthy new incentive for food stamps at 14 area farmers markets this summer.
For the first time, for every $5 shoppers spend using their food stamps at participating farmers markets, they will receive an additional $2 coupon to spend on fruits and vegetables. The coupons are called Food Bucks and are available at 13 Fresh Access farmers markets in Allegheny County and one in Washington County.
The incentive is an expansion of the Fresh Access program launched at two Pittsburgh farmers markets in 2013 by Just Harvest, the local non-profit working to eliminate hunger and poverty. Through Fresh Access shoppers can use food stamps, credit and debit cards to get tokens for purchasing farmers market products.
“The City of Pittsburgh is thrilled that all seven Citiparks farmers markets are among the 14 local markets participating in Just Harvest’s Fresh Access program and their new Food Bucks initiative,” Mayor William Peduto said. “City residents who rely on food stamps now have more options for accessing affordable and nutritious fresh produce. Fresh Access and Food Bucks are a win-win-win for low-income shoppers who get better food choices, for local farmers who get more sales, and for our neighborhoods that get more thriving, diverse, and livable communities.”
A list of the 14 markets participating in the new food stamp incentive program is available here.
According to Just Harvest’s 2013 report “A Menu for Food Justice: Strategies for Improving Access to Healthy Foods in Allegheny County,” nearly one in two Pittsburgh residents live in a community defined as a “food-desert” and do not have adequate access to fresh, healthy food. In some communities, farmers markets are one of the only sources of produce.
Fresh Access was launched to tackle that problem. It enables shoppers to use their food stamps, credit and debit cards at the markets, simply by stopping by tents hosted by Just Harvest or market managers.
At the tents, food stamp recipients can swipe their ACCESS electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards and receive tokens that can be used to purchase a variety of fresh produce, baked goods, meat and dairy products. Those who use the token kiosk for credit and debit card purchases are asked to contribute $1 per transaction to defray costs of the program. Tokens are accepted by dozens of vendors and the list is always growing.
Funding for the Food Bucks program comes from the USDA Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive program in partnership with the Food Trust in Philadelphia.