BREWER, Maine — Those with Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits will be able to use their food stamp cards to purchase items at the farmers’ market in town each Saturday — starting in July — and will get their items for half price.
“There are actually three farmers’ markets that participate — Brewer, Bangor and Ohio Street,” Erin Sweeney, agriculture organizer for Brewer-based Food AND Medicine, said Friday of the half-price program supported by local businesses and agencies.
Sweeney was at the Brewer City Council meeting on Tuesday to let residents know about the Food AND Medicine program that started in Bangor last year thanks to a grant from the Elmina B. Sewall Foundation, based in Kennebec.
“Last year, most of the funds came from the foundation, and this year we said we wanted to see locals support the project,” Sweeney said Friday. “We’ve had businesses get on board, churches, unions, social service agencies and others.
“Over half the funds were raised locally,” she said.
The Elmina B. Sewall Foundation issues grants in Maine in support of animal welfare, the environment and human well-being, the group’s website states.
Needy people who qualify for the Department of Health and Human Services’ Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program are issued EBT — or electronic benefit transfer — cards that are used to pay for food. A family of four that earns less than $2,500 a month qualifies for SNAP.
Only about 30 percent of the farmer’s markets in Maine accept SNAP funds, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture is trying to change that by offering grants that can be used to purchase or lease the machines that run the EBT cards, or pay for wireless access.
Traffic at Bangor’s two farmers’ markets increased by more than 50 percent last year after the EBT half-price program was started, Sweeney said.
A press conference in downtown Bangor is scheduled for 10 a.m. June 25 to let residents of the Queen City know about the program, she said.
The Ohio Street market is located at the Bangor Grange hall, 1192 Ohio St., and is open 2-6 p.m. Wednesdays.
The Bangor farmers’ market is open 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Sundays on Harlow Street across the street from the Bangor Public Library.
Brewer’s farmers’ market is open Tuesday through Saturday and is one of the oldest in the state, Sweeney told councilors.
Mayor Kevin O’Connell said anyone who has not stopped by the market should do so.
“There is many, many natural and great products,” he said at the council meeting. “It’s great food.”
The Food AND Medicine half-priced food program for SNAP participants is only being offered on Saturdays in Brewer, started on July 6.
BDN reporter Beth Brogan contributed to this story.