Grand Rapids Farmers Market kicks off 2012 season, teams up with Blue Cross to offer Market Bucks to help low-income residents eat better
[Grand Rapids, Minn. May 2, 2012] The Grand Rapids Farmers Market announces affordable, healthy food is now easier to buy for people who receive food support thanks to a coordinated effort by the market, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota (Blue Cross) and the Minnesota Farmers’ Market Association (MFMA). MFMA, with funding received through a Specialty Crop Grant from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, recently installed point-of-sale terminals to accept electronic benefit transfer (EBT) at the Grand Rapids Farmers Market. This change enabled participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to use their EBT cards at the market and thereby purchase healthier foods. As an incentive for SNAP recipients to give the market a try and eat more fruits and vegetables, Blue Cross and MFMA are offering “Market Bucks” coupons. Market Bucks provide a dollar-for-dollar match on EBT card purchases, up to $5 each market day. That amounts to $10 of food for just $5 – a great value in tight economic times.
Acceptance of SNAP and use of EBT at farmers markets is a growing trend in Minnesota. In addition to Grand Rapids, Blue Cross is supporting 24 other farmers market locations to promote the service this year – 12 in Minneapolis and St. Paul, and 12 additional suburban and rural markets associated with MFMA. Only three urban markets offered the service two years ago. The MFMA-affiliated markets offering EBT service in 2012 include:
- Albert Lea Farmers Market
- Alexandria Farmers Market
- Austin Area Farmers Market (two locations)
- Bemidji Area Farmers Market
- Bloomington Farmers Market
- Chisago City Farmers Market
- Duluth Farmers Market
- Richfield Farmers Market (two locations)
The positive results from the last two seasons led to this year’s expansion of the Market Bucks Program. Combined highlights from the 16 market locations participating in the 2011 season include:
- More than 2,300 individual customers used EBT, totaling approximately $68,000 in EBT sales and $23,000 in Market Bucks distributed; this represents more than a 200 percent increase in sales, customers and market bucks from the 2010 season results.
- Of those SNAP customers who had used EBT at least twice at participating farmers markets in 2011, 95 percent said they shop at the farmers market more often because they can use EBT there and 88 percent said they eat more fruits and vegetables because they can use EBT at the markets.
“This program has been such an overwhelming success that we’re thrilled to be working with more markets this year, and introducing more people to the healthy foods available to them at farmers markets,” says Dr. Marc Manley, chief prevention officer for Blue Cross. “Blue Cross invests in this effort because we care about the health of all Minnesotans. This work makes the healthy choice the easy choice, so we have a better chance at preventing unnecessary disease due to unhealthy eating.”
Using proceeds from its historic tobacco settlement, Blue Cross’ Prevention Minnesota initiative funds the Market Bucks program. Prevention Minnesota works to improve the health of all residents in Minnesota by tackling the root causes—tobacco use and obesity—of the most preventable diseases and conditions.
At a time when 63 percent of adult Minnesotans are overweight or obese – and at risk for a host of serious diseases and conditions that drive up health care costs – creative approaches to encourage healthy eating are urgently needed. According to a Blue Cross study, only 15 percent of Minnesota adults eat the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables daily. That means the vast majority of people are falling short of a balanced diet.
Access is especially important for EBT recipients and for people living in neighborhoods that lack full-service grocery stores or other sources of fresh produce. EBT at farmers markets and the Market Bucks promotion provides greater access to fruits and vegetables, which can help people achieve or maintain a healthy weight and be well.
“We are so proud of our member markets who have dedicated their time and energy to providing EBT acceptance for the purchase of the healthy food options grown right in our own communities,” says Deonna Bouska, operations manager for MFMA. “Farmers’ markets provide a unique community gathering place that allow you to meet the person who produced the items for your family’s next meal…and they are a wonderful resource for helping you select new menu items and then prepare them easily for healthy new additions to your diet!”
“The Grand Rapids Farmers Market is pleased to have the addition of the EBT and Market Bucks program,” says Kent Lorentzen, market manager. “This program not only helps people eat good, healthy food, but also helps them to stretch their food dollars, while increasing the income of local growers.”
The market is located downtown Grand Rapids, Minn., along Hwy. 2 across from the mall, between 1st Ave. NW and 2nd Ave. NW. Hours are Wednesdays & Saturdays 8 a.m. – 1 p.m. (May 2nd – October) and Mondays from 2 – 6 p.m. (June 4 – September 24). For more information about the Grand Rapids Farmers Market visit grfarmersmarket.org. A copy of Blue Cross’ 2011 Electronic Benefit Transfer and Farmers Market Initiative Evaluation Report will be available early May. To download the report, visit bluecrossmn.com/preventionminnesota.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, with headquarters in the St. Paul suburb of Eagan, was chartered in 1933 as Minnesota’s first health plan and continues to carry out its charter mission today as a health company: to promote a wider, more economical and timely availability of health services for the people of Minnesota. Blue Cross is a not-for-profit, taxable organization. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, headquartered in Chicago. Go to bluecrossmn.com to learn more about Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota.
The Minnesota Farmers’ Market Association is a non-profit organization offering services and programs to support and promote Minnesota’s farmers markets. Please visit our website at www.mfma.org or email email@example.com.
The Grand Rapids Farmers Market began in1986. Fresh fruits & vegetables, home raised meats, honey, maple syrup, jams and jellies, fresh baked goods, and canned goods are available, all produced by members within 50 miles of Grand Rapids, Minn. Please visit our website at www.grfarmersmarket.org.
Karen Lyons, APR
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota
Minnesota Farmers’ Market Association
Grand Rapids Farmers Market
Grand Rapids Farmers Market
Grand Rapids Farmers Market