EBT users get greater value at farmers’ markets

Paige Macauley (right) talks to a family at the Christiansburg Farmer’s Market about some of the recipes provided by the Virginia Cooperative Extension. (Photo by Sam Wall)
Paige Macauley (right) talks to a family at the Christiansburg Farmer’s Market about some of the recipes provided by the Virginia Cooperative Extension. (Photo by Sam Wall)

Virginia Cooperative Extension is working with the Blacksburg and Christiansburg farmer’s markets to promote healthy recipes that can be made with local ingredients as well bring awareness to a program that allows EBT users to double a portion of the money they spend at the market.

Paige Macauley, an intern with the organization and a rising senior at Virginia Tech, works at the Blacksburg market on Wednesdays and the Christiansburg Market on Thursdays sharing recipes and information about the program to those that qualify.

According to Macauley, anyone can sample and learn how to make the healthy recipes that all use ingredients from local farmer’s markets as well as community gardens in the area.

“We aim a lot of our stuff towards kids because it’s easier to teach new habits than to break old ones,” she said.

In addition to teaching people about easy, healthy recipes, Macauley also helps make those with EBT cards (which are like bank cards for welfare recipients) aware that their dollar can go further at the farmers markets. Both Christiansburg and Blacksburg have programs that allow cardholders to double their money at the market. Christiansburg shoppers may spend up to $10 (doubling to $20) on their EBT cards, while Blacksburg patrons may use up to $30 on their EBT cards

Macauley, 21, said more than 60 people come to her booth every week in Christiansburg and at least 80 people a week in Blacksburg.

“They really enjoy the recipes. Oftentimes parents tell me their kids would never try that and then the kids do and end up liking it,” Macauley said. “It is great when you introduce someone to something they would have probably not tried otherwise.”

Sarah Belcher is the director of the Christiansburg Farmer’s Market and supports the EBT program.

“I think it’s a great program for citizens as well as the vendors at the market. People are able to buy fresh local products and it brings more money to the vendors at the market.”

Belcher said that the program brought in around $1,500 to the market in 2015 and she is hopeful that it will be even more in 2016.

“Right now we get around five cards a week and I would love to see that even doubled,” Belcher said.

The money extra money comes from donations from various organizations like the NRV Health District as well as others.

For more information about the program or the markets, call 239-8290 for Blacksburg or 382-6128 for Christiansburg.

The Blacksburg Community Market currently does accept EBT cards, but hopes to do so in the near future, said market spokeswoman Tracy Harrah.

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