Local food retail stores around the state are working with MFT to pilot an exciting new incentive program that will help SNAP recipients purchase more local food with federal food benefits. By using Maine Harvest Bucks, SNAP recipients can now receive $5 of bonus local fruits and vegetables for every $10 spent on local items at participating markets.
“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,”said Shannon Grimes, who manages the project for MFT.
Similar incentives have been quite successful at farmers markets, and expansion to the retail setting is a natural progression. Retail outlets, like food co-ops, that already sell a wide array of local farm products, are well suited to being part of the Maine Harvest Bucks program.
“We’re thrilled to be working with such a great group of markets,” Shannon says. “Everyone has been so excited and supportive of experimenting with a new program (one that’s never really been done before, anywhere), and are devoting a lot of time and energy to figuring out how to make it work. We’re especially lucky to have the Belfast Co-op in our backyard, and that they were willing to take the program and run with it—we couldn’t do it without their testing, troubleshooting, and teaching others.”
Joe Fournier, manager and co-owner of The Farm Stand in South Portland is enthusiastic about their involvement in the program: “Maine Harvest Bucks gives us an opportunity to share our showcase of Maine’s agricultural bounty to more people across a greater cross-section of lifestyles and backgrounds. Our main goal is to encourage the consumption, and access, of local, fresh and healthy food. That’s why we are excited to be a part of this program that includes everyone in the achievement of that goal.”
In addition to Belfast Co-op and The Farm Stand, other co-ops and retail locations across the state who are currently participating include: Portland Food Co-op, Rising Tide Community Market, Good Tern Co-op, Blue Hill Co-op, the Morris Farm Store, and Machias Marketplace. Several food hubs/farm aggregators are also part of the project: Lakeside Family Farm, Unity Food Hub, and The Pick Up.
Maine Harvest Bucks nutrition incentives (bonus fruits and vegetables for SNAP recipients) are also available at various farmers’ markets, and CSAprograms around the state—visit maineharvestbucks.org for a full list.