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More bang for the buck in Virginia food benefits

Jon Henry

The Virginia Fresh Match program benefits both food-insecure households and local farmers by making SNAP benefits go further at markets and some grocery stores. WMRA's Randi B. Hagi reports.

Recipients of SNAP and P-EBT, often called food stamps, can use those benefits to get twice the local produce and food-bearing plants at more than 90 locations across the state – including many farmer's markets and community grocery stores.

ELIZABETH BORST: Customers really value the ability to spend their benefits with farmers … and they also really, really value the freshness and the quality.

Elizabeth Borst is the director of Virginia Community Food Connections, which coordinates the "Fresh Match" program. She said that at a farmer's market, you swipe your EBT card at the manager's stand, and they'll give you twice as many market tokens as you paid for. At a participating grocery store, you just check out like normal with your EBT card and you'll get 50% off the produce in your cart.

Jon Henry

Participating locations in our area include the farmer's markets in Harrisonburg, Verona, Staunton, Waynesboro, Stanardsville, Stuarts Draft, and Charlottesville's IX Art Park; as well as the Friendly City Food Co-op in Harrisonburg and the Jon Henry General Store in New Market.

Jon Henry said they have a wide variety of plants and seeds that qualify for the program.

JON HENRY: Everything from swiss chard and kohlrabi up to more traditional, you know, Big Beef Tomato plants.

Even if you don't have a yard, you can still grow a bit of your own food.

HENRY: If you're in an apartment, I would definitely recommend building out some type of planter that gets window light that you can grow your own salads in a three foot-by-one foot little area.

Here’s a link to a map of Fresh Match outlets.

Randi B. Hagi first joined the WMRA team in 2019 as a freelance reporter. Her writing and photography have been featured in The Harrisonburg Citizen, where she previously served as the assistant editor; as well as The Mennonite; Mennonite World Review; and Eastern Mennonite University's Crossroads magazine.