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GardenShare offers food stamps incentive

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GardenShare is offering an incentive to food stamp recipients who buy fresh food at area farmers markets.

GardenShare, a nonprofit organization working to end hunger and increase the use of local foods, operates SNAP/EBT voucher tents to make it easy for those who receive benefits to use their cards at farmers markets in Ogdensburg, Potsdam and Canton.

“This year, we have a new twist to it,” said Aviva M. Gold, GardenShare executive director.

Participants who use their dollars at the Canton and Potsdam markets will receive an extra $5 for every $10 they spend, essentially making $1 the equivalent of $1.50. The goal is to make fresh food at lower prices available to St. Lawrence County residents and keep food stamp dollars in the local economy. About 15 percent of the county’s population receives Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, formerly known as food stamps, via EBT debit cards, Ms. Gold said.

Shoppers can use the benefits to buy fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, poultry, dairy, maple syrup and other maple products, honey, breads, baked goods, jams and jellies, processed foods and seeds and plants that produce food.

GardenShare has operated its EBT booth at the Canton market for six years, using an incentive when it first began. The Potsdam market has had an EBT booth for two years.

For several years, use of the EBT tokens at the Canton market was on the rise but then leveled off and started to decrease, a slight surprise, Ms. Gold said. GardenShare is not sure of the reason but Ms. Gold speculated it might be because some former users no longer receive the benefits while others who do may not know about the program.

“It might just be awareness has gone down,” she said. “We wanted to bring food stamp customers back to the market. We’re hoping this incentive program does that.”

As an added bonus, EBT participants who use the farmers market five times this summer will get an extra $20 to spend.

Funding for the incentive is provided by GardenShare supporters and the New York State Fresh Connect Farmers Market program.

The Potsdam market is open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesdays and Saturdays. The Canton market is open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays and Fridays.

The Ogdensburg market, which does not offer the incentive, is open Saturdays.

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