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VIGA raises money for ‘Market Buck Match’
Vashon Island Growers Association is raising money for its Market Buck Match program, which matches the first $10 in farmers market food purchases by food stamp — or Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) — customers.
Market Buck Match increases EBT customers’ purchasing power and their access to fresh, local food, said Merilee Runyan, a Vashon Island Growers Association board member.
The program is in its second year, and officials hope to raise $1,000 to cover its expenses.
“The market is more expensive than cheap food,” Runyan said. “The debit/credit/EBT project makes local food more accessible, and the Market Buck Match program makes it more affordable.”
The farmers market is able to accept EBT cards, as well as credit and debit cards, thanks to a grant from the Washington Local Farms/Healthy Kids Initiative that allowed the market to purchase a small hand-held wireless card reader last year.
The credit/debit/EBT program was a success on Vashon and elsewhere in the state since it was initiated a year ago.
In 2009, the first year of the project, EBT sales at farmers markets statewide increased 320 percent over 2008 sales: They were $142,765 in 2008 and $345,027 in 2009.
Customers were unable to use EBT at the Vashon Farmers Market before last year, but Island EBT holders have taken to the market’s new program.
In the first year of the project, EBT sales were $1,613, with an average purchase of $24 — $10 of which was paid for by the Market Buck Match program. Matching the first $10 of EBT purchases increased customers’ purchasing power by about 42 percent.
Sustainable Vashon helped launch the Market Buck Match program last year with a grant of $500; individual donations of $100 allowed the farmers market to give out $600 in matching purchase funds to EBT customers last year.
“Our EBT customers were consistently surprised and delighted by the program and the generosity of the community,” Runyan said. “I can’t tell you how many times the customers express appreciation. They love to be able to shop at the farmers market and buy fresh food.”
To raise funds for the 2010 Market Buck Match program, Vashon Island Growers Association is showing the new documentary “Fresh,” at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, June 27, at Vashon Theatre. The film celebrates the farmers and businesspeople across the country who are reinventing the food system. Admission is by donation.
Sustainable Vashon plans to match donations up to $300 this year. To give to the Market Buck Match program, Islanders can make a donation at the “Fresh” showing or send a check to VIGA at P.O. Box 2894, Vashon WA, 98070, and write Market Buck Match in the memo line. Or make a donation at the Vashon Farmers Market. Because Vashon Island Growers Association is a nonprofit, all donations are tax-deductible.