After spending almost nine months applying for grants from federal and state food assistance programs, Basalt Sunday Market manager Jimmy Dula has expanded the offerings of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in the valley.
There are few healthy options for residents who are food-insecure. Food banks often carry canned products or high-calorie/low-nutrition boxed items. Dula said even grocery store produce has often traveled so far before it hits the shelves that it is no longer at the height of nutrition
“Obesity is just as big of a problem as hunger is, we have a long way to go,” he said.
SNAP clients can check in at the market booth and use their EBT card — formally known as food stamps — to trade program credits for “market bucks.” Vendors accept the market bucks in lieu of cash and are refunded the next week. Dula said he hopes that along with providing healthier food options to shoppers, the program will also increase sales for local farmers.
“My main objective in farming is to increase access to local foods,” said local farmer Erin Cuseo of Erin’s Acres. “I don’t feel that i am increasing access by selling food that is out of the budget for a lot of people.”
Cuseo hasn't always had the means to include fresh produce in her grocery shopping. She said she is aware that farmer’s markets can be cost-prohibitive. She works to keep the prices of her own produce down.
Dula’s next mission is to increase the diversity of the market and partner with organizations that can help with inclusion and transportation for those who need it.
“The alternative food system has tended to create spaces of whiteness and that’s exactly what’s happened at the basalt sunday market,” he said. “I think that’s our larger obstacle.”
Food assistance programs are greatly under-utilized in Colorado. The state ranks 45th in the United States for people who are eligible for SNAP credits who actually sign up to receive them.
The market runs through the end of September. Next year, SNAP credits will be doubled, patrons can trade one SNAP dollar in for two market bucks.