Farmers market offers options to those on aid

Fresh local carrots and beans that snap when you break them. Succulent cherries from our neighbors in Palisade. And peaches that melt in your mouth.

Many residents enjoy the annual local harvest offered at Grand Junction’s downtown farmers market, but those tasty and nutritious fruits and vegetables this year can be purchased by people who rely on food assistance.

“It’s important for us to give them options,” Mesa County Department of Human Services spokesman Karen Martsolf said. “Just because they are having financial difficulty doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have access to fresh produce.”

With the help of a LiveWell of Mesa County grant, organizers of the American National Bank Farmers Market have purchased an Electronic Benefits Transfer, or EBT, machine. Food-assistance recipients can go to a booth at the market to swipe their food assistance cards, or QUEST cards, and receive coupons in denominations of $1 and $5. In an effort to keep food-assistance recipients anonymous, the farmers-market bucks look similar to other farmers-markets gift certificates. Neither farmers nor other shoppers will know the coupons are related to food assistance. The coupons can only be used for fresh produce and not premade items.

Farmers-market organizers hope to offer the services in future years and want to expand the program to include other farmers markets in the Grand Valley.

During the past year, more people who never received food assistance previously now receive the assistance, Martsolf said. More than 13,000 Mesa County residents receive food assistance, the largest number of recipients in at least the past decade thanks to high unemployment.


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