The second year of Maryland Hunger Solutions' (MDHS) Baltimore EBT Farmers' Market pilot project has closed with over $37,000 in fresh, local food purchased by low-income Marylanders through EBT and Baltimore Bucks incentives. Overall, more than $77,000 went to local vendors through the EBT /debit/credit machine and Baltimore Bucks. Seven markets participated in the project this year, an increase from three in 2010.
The three markets that were in their second year of accepting EBT in partnership with MDHS - Waverly/32nd Street, Highlandtown, and Park Heights- all showed growth in the number of EBT transactions and amount of EBT sales. In 2010, these three markets had 763 EBT transactions; in 2011 they had 1,564 EBT transactions. The project attracted national attention too. USDA Undersecretary Kevin Concannon visited Waverly/32nd Street Farmers Market in September.
Innovative practices were implemented to attract customers to market. MDHS collaborated with the Department of Human Resources, drawing almost 90 new customers to the markets in one week as a result of a flyer distributed to Baltimore City Food Supplement Program (FSP, known as SNAP nationally and formerly the Food Stamp Program) participants in October. The flyer advertised the program and highlighted an increase in the Baltimore Bucks matching incentives from five to ten dollars. Markets worked within their communities to overcome barriers and attract customers including busing seniors to the market and partnering with community health initiatives which also offered incentive coupons.
Maryland Hunger Solutions would like to thank all the dedicated staff and volunteers who have supported the EBT project this year. The project could not have seen such growth without the continued support from the Abell Foundation, the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, and the Wholesome Wave Foundation.
During my service year, I have gained a better understanding of the federal nutrition programs in addressing hunger and poverty. It has been great to work on a project which connects local farmers and fresh, healthy food with low-income residents. Accepting EBT at farmers markets brings together priorities of both the food justice and anti-hunger communities.