FALL RIVER – A real sign of summer in New England is the abundance of local produce. Fresh berries, tomatoes, zucchini, corn and more, meals can be simple, delicious, healthy and affordable. However, access to locally grown fruits and vegetables at reasonable prices has not always been easy to find in Fall River. Fortunately, members of the Healthy Eating Active Living Working Group, a subcommittee of the Greater Fall River Partner’s for a Healthier Community, have improved access to farmers’ markets for Fall River residents since 2019.
Sarah Labossiere, Coordinator of Mass in Motion, in partnership with people from SEMAP, St. Anne’s Hospital, WIC, HealthFirst, Bristol Elders Services, Fall River Housing Authority and others, worked diligently to this effort. This collaboration prioritized finding high traffic market locations and ensured that local farmers participating in the market were certified to accept payments with SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – EBT Cards) and Healthy Incentives Program (HIP). SNAP is a national program that helps supplement food budgets to enable individuals and families to purchase nutritious food.
In Massachusetts, HIP is a program that puts money back on EBT cards when a person purchases local fruits and vegetables from farmers approved by HIP. The amounts available vary from $ 40 / month for households of 1 to 2 people, $ 60 / month for households of 3 to 5 people and $ 80 / month for households of 6 or more people. “The HIP program is a tremendous benefit for people who might otherwise avoid the slightly higher cost of purchasing fresh, unprocessed fruits and vegetables from local farmers,” says Labossière.
Despite the incredible benefits offered by HIP, few SNAP cardholders are aware of the program. Fortunately, at each market, there are families who learn about the benefits of Labossière or the farmers themselves. “I had no idea that I was able to receive money for purchases of approved fruits and vegetables – it will allow me to come to these markets more often,” said one market buyer. This season, each market has seen approximately 25 people make HIP purchases, with one market day reaching 40 HIP purchases. Ms. Labossière hopes that the use of HIP will continue to increase as news of the markets and the HIP program spreads throughout the community. In addition to sharing market information, Labossière, SEMAP and WIC, organize information sessions and distribute materials on the SNAP and HIP program to community members. Most recently there have been presentations to parent groups at Head Start and with Fall River Public Schools.
Food insecurity in Fall River and Bristol County has been a long-standing concern for many residents. Bristol County has the highest rate of food insecurity in Southeast Massachusetts, with 10.3 percent of all county residents lacking access to food to ensure a healthy, active lifestyle. .
The purpose of these markets is to expand access to all residents of Fall River, which is why these markets also accept Farmer’s Market coupons which are offered to WIC families and seniors, as well as cash and credit cards. “We see people of all socio-economic backgrounds, of all ages and races, attending the markets. It’s wonderful to see everyone coming together to support local farmers, ”says Labossière.
What started with a weekly one-place market in 2019 has expanded to three days a week at various locations in Fall River in 2021. Laura Smith, of Dighton’s Lane Gardens and Oakdale Farms Country Barn in Rehoboth, is the main farmer in Rehoboth. these markets. Later in the season, she will be joined by C&M Farm. “People have consistently shopped in our pop-up markets throughout the pandemic last year. It shows how essential local food and farmer markets are, ”Smith said. “I am excited to continue to increase access to healthy foods that they might otherwise struggle to afford.
This season, the markets are open to the public and will run from June to October. Markets are open Tuesdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at St. Anne’s Hospital, 795 Middle Street
Wednesdays from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Health First Family Care Center, 387 Quarry Street
Fridays from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Cardinal Medeiros Towers, 1197 Robeson Street
For more information on Fall River Markets, please call Mass in Motion, Fall River at 508-324-2405 or SEMAP at 508-289-1814.
For more information on the SNAP and HIP benefits, call 1-800-645-8333 or visit mass.gov/snap and mass.gov/HIP. To request SNAP benefits, visit www.DTAconnect.com/.
For more information on Farmers Market coupons via WIC, contact 508-679-9349. Coupons for seniors will be available in July. People 65 years of age and older can contact the Council on Aging at 508-324-2400 for more information.