Spare Change News
Beginning in May, which is the start of the farmers market season, the Boston Bounty Bucks program will mark its fourth birthday. So far, 20 Boston-area farmers markets will participate in this double value food program, which allows households with food stamps (SNAP) to make food purchases at any of their local farmers markets.
The participating farmers markets include Ashmont/Peabody Square, Boston Medical Center, City Hall Plaza, South Station, Bowdoin-Geneva Street, Codman Square, Marbury Terrace, Copley Square, Dorchester House, Dudley Town Commons, East Boston, Fields Corner, Frederick Douglas Square, Grove Hall, Harvard Allston, Hyde Park, Mattapan, Mission Hill, Blue Hill, Roslindale, South Boston, and Union Square.
The Boston Bounty Bucks program allows people who receive food stamps to use their electronic benefits (EBT) cards to make food purchases. This food program will match a customer’s SNAP purchases up to $10, meaning that a person could buy up to $20 in food for 50 percent off. For food purchases over $20, a customer’s EBT card would be debited for the total amount, minus $10.
From May 2008 until November 2011, the Boston Bounty Bucks program was managed by the Food Project in partnership with Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino. In 2011, the program management was transferred by the Food Project to a new organization, the Boston Collaboration for Food and Fitness (BCFF).
The BCFF’s two main objectives are to deliver food to inner city schools and to build partnerships with local chefs. BCFF is a Boston-based food organization that works to maintain and expand the channels of food distribution to people living in the inner city.
Jennifer Obadia, Boston Bounty Bucks’ manager at the BCFF, pointed out that the Food Project ran a pilot double value food program at the Dudley Town Commons in 2007. This pilot program grew over three years to include 14 participating farmers markets.
“The Food Project provided the Boston Bounty Bucks program with technical assistance during its start up,” said Brandy Brooks, director of community programs at the Food Project. “The Food Project provided reimbursement to both the farmers markets and the individual farmers.”
Jennifer Obadia mentioned that BCFF is a new nonprofit organization, founded in 2009. She went on to say that BCFF’s original focus involved farm-to-school partnerships, and that this management goal has been expanded with the merging of the Boston Bounty Bucks under their leadership.
“We currently have 20 of 26 Boston farmers markets participating,” Obadia said. “We hope that all of the Boston area farmers markets may join the Bounty Bucks in the near future. We are starting to talk with several of the remaining Boston farmers markets about joining the program. They have expressed interest. We hope to have all of the Boston farmers markets participate in the next few years. Each of the farmers markets’ management makes the decision to join, and it is an involved process.”
Ralph Loglisci is the director of communications and public outreach for Wholesome Wave, a national 501c3 organization that is dedicated to supporting small farms all around America and making fresh produce available to all people. Loglisci pointed out that Boston Bounty Bucks is one of the largest urban inner city double value food programs nationally, and it may be one of the oldest of its kind.
“Twenty-three percent of farmers markets nationally utilize double value food programs to get food stamp households to shop at their local farmers markets,” Loglisci said. “Each of these programs has a different level of farmer and consumer reimbursement.”
Loglisci stated that different reimbursement programs and levels of financial compensation are two of the factors that set individual programs apart nationally. Loglisci commented that Wholesome Wave works with several statewide organizations that distribute food to low-income and working people. He mentioned that his national organization works with several local groups, including the Waltham-based Federation of Massachusetts Farmers Markets, the Food Project, and the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts in Hatfield.
Gus Schumacher, executive vice president of policy for Wholesome Wave, commented that every city’s program has a different approach when it comes to its level of reimbursement for both the consumers and individual farmers. For example, Boston’s program has a straightforward dollar-for-dollar value, while other cities such as New York use a formula of reimbursing $2 for every $5 spent, which would give back 40 percent of each purchase. Furthermore, some programs originate with the farmers markets instead of the cities. The Union Square farmers market in Somerville has its own double value food program, which is funded by the market association. They also have the backing of the city of Somerville.
Schumacher went on to say that double value food plans are growing nationwide, and that more farmers market associations are contacting Wholesome Wave to inquire about this program.
ROBERT SONDAK is a Spare Change News writer and vendor. Robert has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Massachusetts Boston, College of Public and Community Service (CPCS). He is the executive director of the Nutrition Education Outreach Project,http://neopneopt.blogspot.com.