Lawrence city commissioners are on board with a program designed to double the amount of money food stamp recipients have to spend at local farmers' markets.
Commissioners at their Tuesday evening meeting unanimously agreed to provide $10,600 for a pilot project that would allow users of the federal Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program — aka food stamps — to buy produce and other goods at a subsidized rate at the Downtown Lawrence Farmers' Market and the Cottin's Hardware Farmers Market. Douglas County commissioners also will consider providing $10,600 in funding for the program at their meeting Wednesday afternoon.
The program would give a SNAP enrollee the opportunity to turn $20 into $40, said Christina Holt, chair of LiveWell's Healthy Food for All work group, which is proposing the program. If a SNAP user "spent" $40 at a farmers market, only $20 would be deducted from the SNAP account. The other $20 would be funded through the program, so farmers can still receive all of their money.
"Something we've heard time and time again through focus groups and surveys and interviews were that people wanted to eat healthier but that they cannot afford to do so," she said.
Increased access to healthy foods has been identified as a priority by the county's five-year health plan, Roadmap to a Healthier Douglas County. According to Feeding America, a national hunger-relief charity, more than 18,000 Douglas County residents in 2012 had a limited availability of nutritionally adequate foods.
A similar initiative, the Beans & Greens program in the Kansas City area, has seen "quite a growth" in food stamp dollars spent at farmers markets, Holt said.
Money from the city and county governments would be used for the matching funds, Holt said. LiveWell is also pledging $3,800 to the program, which would run from June through September or until the funds dry up.
In the future, the organization would look outside Douglas County for continued funding, Holt said.
County commissioners meet at 4 p.m. Wednesday at the Douglas County Courthouse.
— Journal-World reporter Chad Lawhorn contributed to this report.