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The Belfast Co-op is piloting a new incentive program that will help SNAP recipients purchase more local food with federal food benefits. With support from Maine Farmland Trust, SNAP recipients receive $5 of bonus local fruits and vegetables for every $10 spent on local items.
Similar incentive programs have proven successful at farmers markets across the state, and last year Maine Farmland Trust received a grant through the USDA to expand nutrition incentives beyond farmers markets and into retail stores. This is the first time these incentives are being offered at a co-op.
“Retail locations like co-ops, offering locally grown and raised foods, are well-suited to offer Maine Harvest Bucks,” says Mike Gold, Farm Viability Program Manager at Maine Farmland Trust. “It’s a win-win-win: more food insecure Mainers can eat healthy, locally-produced foods; Maine farms make more sales; and more food dollars stay in the local economy.”
The pilot program launched successfully and expects to gain momentum as word spreads. The Belfast Co-op welcomes all customers, and hopes to attract some new customers with this program.
“The Belfast Co-op is dedicated to supporting a sustainable local food economy, as well as being a source in Waldo County for healthy, affordable food,” says Carisa Carney, Marketing Manager at Belfast Co-op. “We are thrilled to be part of the Maine Harvest Bucks program, providing the greater Belfast community with access to local fresh fruits and vegetables.”
Maine Harvest Bucks nutrition incentives (bonus fruits and vegetables for SNAP recipients) are also available at the Belfast Farmers’ Market, Unity Farmers’ Market, and through the Unity Food Hub and Dickey Hill Farm as well as other farmers markets and CSAs around the state (visit maineharvestbucks.org for a full list). And the program will soon be active at other co-ops and retail locations across the state, including Portland Food Co-op, Rising Tide Community Market, Good Tern Co-op, Blue Hill Co-op, the Morris Farm Store, The Farm Stand in South Portland, and Machias Marketplace. For more information, visit maineharvestbucks.org/retail or contact Shannon Grimes, Farm Viability Associate at Maine Farmland Trust, firstname.lastname@example.org.