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EBT program to continue at Courthouse Square

One month ago, it looked like a very special program for EBT customers at the Jonesborough Farmers market was going to come to an end.
“At the beginning of this market season, we made a focused effort to contact a number of social service agencies and senior centers in the area to find out how to let people know about our matching grant program,” said Heidi Ehle, co-manager of the market. “We wanted to expand the number of people we were reaching, and our effort was successful. This summer, we have had three times more EBT customers than we have ever had, and we completely used up our grant allowance for our double coupon program.”
“Double Value Coupons” is the name of the program which enables SNAP (food stamp) recipients to earn a dollar-for-dollar match, up to $10, when they spend their EBT benefits on fresh foods at farmers markets. Since 2011, the Jonesborough market has received up to $1,000 from the Wholesome Wave foundation each year to distribute as double value coupons.
Wholesome Wave’s premise is that the double value incentive helps low-income customers choose fresh foods that may improve their health, Ehle said. Wholesome Wave sponsors similar efforts at more than 300 farmers markets in 25 states and Washington, D.C.
In Jonesborough, the coupons and EBT spending at the market is also a clear bonus for farmers’ sales. Connie Seehoffer, treasurer for Jonesborough Locally Grown, has been volunteering with the program since it began in Jonesborough. “EBT brings in at least $2,000 in additional sales every year,” Seehoffer said. “This year, $2,000 has already been spent at the market with EBT, and there are still six market weeks to go.”
With 21 percent of Washington County households receiving SNAP benefits, Seehoffer said, it makes sense to encourage them to use their EBT cards at the market.
The community has sustained the EBT program this summer since the maximum was reached. “When we ran out of our Wholesome Wave funding, some of our volunteers suggested that we set out a jar for spare change at our info booth and invite community donations, and that’s what we did,” Ehle said.
Individual contributions added up to $130, and on Saturday, State Representative Matthew Hill presented the market with at $500 check for the cause. This funding should see the program through the end of the season and part of the next, Ehle said. The Saturday markets will conclude for the year at the end of October.
“We expect continued support from Wholesome Wave, but we also feel it’s important to have local support for this program,” Ehle says. “We are very grateful for the help that has come forward.”
For more information about the Wholesome Wave program, please visit www.wholesomewave.org. For information about the Jonesborough Farmers Market, please visit www.jonesborough.locallygrown.net.