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— By the El Dorado News-Times

The Murphy Arts District is excited to announce that SNAP/EBT funds will be accepted at Farmers Market at MAD beginning Saturday, Aug. 10.

Part of Farmers Market at MAD’s mission is to improve the quality of life in the region by providing access to locally grown food to as much of the community as possible. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP/EBT, formerly known as food stamps) is a federal safety net program providing low and no-income Americans with food they need to feed themselves and their families. The SNAP program is funded through the USDA and administered in Arkansas through the Arkansas Department of Human Services.

A majority of the vendors at market will be able to accept SNAP/EBT funds, and customers can distinguish them by the 8.5 x 11 inch bright yellow sign displayed in their booth. Products that can be purchased through SNAP funds include all fruits, vegetables, herbs, eggs, meat, honey, jelly, and baked goods. Baked goods include bread, granola, rolls, muffins, cookies, scones, cakes, and more.

Vendors who will not be able to participate in the program are the prepared food vendors offering things such as coffee and hot dogs. Also not allowed for SNAP purchase are crafts and flowers. Farmers Market at MAD is open on Wednesday and Saturday mornings from 8 a.m. to noon at the MAD Amphitheater Pavilion at 105 E. Locust St. in El Dorado.

Customers who want to participate can check-in at the market SNAP/EBT table. A volunteer will swipe their SNAP/EBT card at the card terminal for as many dollars as the customer wishes to spend that day. The customer will then receive wooden $1 tokens to spend with vendors at the market. As some customers may be unfamiliar with some of the produce or items available at market, market manager and volunteers will offer recipes at the SNAP table and plan to host cooking demonstrations to help customers learn new ways to utilize the local food available.

Accepting SNAP/EBT funds at the farmers market will provide numerous benefits for SNAP customers, vendors, and the community. The market provides additional opportunities for fresh produce that are not available in the grocery store, such as purple hull peas or locally famous, Bradley County bred tomatoes.

SNAP customers will be able to add variety to their diets and have more choices when it comes to in-season produce, such as choosing from 11 types of tomato varieties or six types of squash in all colors and sizes. As produce loses nutrients the longer they are off the vine, SNAP customers are in for the freshest and most nutritious vegetables and fruits around, as some vendors harvest the morning of market, just hours before it opens. This also allows for a longer shelf-life or expiration on the produce since it was just picked.

In 2018, a half million dollars were distributed in SNAP/EBT funds to Union County. By using SNAP/EBT funds to shop at the local market, vendor sales increase and the money stays here locally to be reinvested in our own economy.

If market vendors capture even just a small percentage of SNAP funds in Union County, it could be enough to make a big difference in their yearly income.

Most importantly, all individuals in the community will have increased access to fresher, locally grown food and the potential to sustain a healthier lifestyle, regardless of income.

The market is in great need for volunteers to help run the SNAP program! To volunteer or for more information about the SNAP/EBT program at Farmers Market at MAD, contact elizabethy@eldofest.com or call 870-863-4547.

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