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Farmers markets offer more benefits for food stamp users

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Fruits and vegetables will be an additional bonus for SNAP/EBT users this year at area farmers markets.

Canton, Potsdam and Massena markets will participate in CNY Health Bucks, a partnership program between the Food Bank of Central New York and the Farmers Market Federation, according to Aviva M. Gold, executive director of GardenShare.

The program gives $2 checks, specific for purchasing fruits and vegetables, for every $5 worth of merchandise purchased through the SNAP/EBT food stamp program. People using the program can get up to four checks per market day.

Farmers will be reimbursed by the Farmers Market Federation, Ms. Gold said.

The Canton and Potsdam markets opened in May and started using the CNY Health Bucks June 1, and the Massena markets will start using them when the markets open in July.

St. Lawrence County’s SNAP/EBT users in the past have been able to use their benefits at markets in Canton, Gouverneur, Massena, Ogdensburg, Potsdam and at Martin’s Roadside Stand on Route 11 in Potsdam, but they previously only received dollar for dollar, according to Ms. Gold.

In addition to the CNY checks, SNAP/EBT users also could get an additional $2 check through the Fresh Connect initiative, which could mean $4 for every $5 spent at the Canton, Potsdam and Massena markets.

In 2011, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo launched the Fresh Connect Farmers Markets initiative, which allows for Fresh Connect checks worth $2 for every $5 SNAP/EBT users.

The state Department of Agriculture and Markets sends the checks to different markets each year depending on how many SNAP/EBT users they had the previous year.

This year’s checks have not been issued yet, but Joseph B. Morresy, spokesman for the department, said the department hopes to have the checks issued around July 1. He said the department has not yet decided which markets will be receiving the checks.

“It makes their food stamp money stretch a little bit farther,” said Laura Popielski, program manager. “Everybody’s trying to be healthier, and it’s important for people to know who’s growing their food.”

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