Food stamp dollar-for-dollar match program begins at Lawrence farmers markets

A pilot program that doubles the value of food stamp dollars spent at Lawrence farmers markets kicks off Saturday.

The Market Match program, which matches every dollar food-stamp recipients spend at local farmers markets up to $25, was the brainchild of LiveWell Lawrence, a local health-and-wellness coalition that has a goal of expanding access to healthy food. LiveWell members thought such a program would promote public health by encouraging recipients of food stamps, officially called the Supplemental Assistance Nutrition Program, to shop at farmers markets, which carry a variety of fresh fruits, vegetables and other food, all made by local producers.

“I’m hoping this brings a lot more people and families to the farmers market,” Market Match coordinator Leslie Queen said. “Really it’s a win-win: The farmers are able to sell more of their fresh fruits and vegetables and produce, and have it be more affordable and available to every population and individual in Lawrence.”

Christina Holt, a member of LiveWell Lawrence who works for the Kansas University Work Group for Community Health and Development, said the program has the potential to help SNAP recipients stretch their food budgets; increase access in the community to healthy, affordable food; and support local food producers. She also hopes it can increase food-stamp enrollment in Douglas County, which is low compared to other counties in Kansas.

Funding for the program comes from the city of Lawrence, Douglas County and LiveWell Lawrence. The pilot year of Market Match will continue until the $25,000 in funding runs out.

Market Match launches Saturday at the Lawrence Farmers Market, 824 New Hampshire St., from 7-11 a.m. The program will also be in effect at the Tuesday Lawrence Farmers Market from 4-6 p.m., and at the Cottin’s Hardware Farmers Market on Thursdays from 4-6 p.m. behind Cottin’s Hardware & Rental, 1832 Massachusetts St.