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Food stamp use growing at Michigan farmers markets

 

Associated Press

In this Aug. 21, 2013 photo, Lynn Phillips, of Rudich Farms in Ray Township, Mich., accepts EBT tokens from Orion Township residents Amy Weronka, right, and her daughter Diana in exchange for produce at the Lake Orion, Mich., Farmers Market.

LATHRUP VILLAGE, Mich. (AP) — Food stamps are getting more common at farmers markets around Michigan as a growing number of recipients look for locally grown food and sellers reach out for new customers.

“It’s opening up a world of access that has not been there before,” said Kathy Forzley, manager of the Oakland County Health Department. “It’s a perfect match in terms of it has tremendous benefits for the families and it also provides a new customer base for our local farmers.”

In 2006, when the Michigan Farmers Market Association was started, three markets in the state accepted food stamps. Today, 130 do, according to the group.

As more markets accept such benefits, low-income individuals are getting greater access to healthier foods, said association spokeswoman Amanda Shreve.

“Michigan just has amazing growth in farmers markets in general,” she told The Detroit News. “There’s also a real interest in local food and knowing where your food comes from.”

The formal name of the national food stamps program is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Its ranks have been growing, with about one in seven Americans getting aid.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has a lower figure for Michigan farmers markets participating in food stamps: 87 out of 304 such markets registered with the state.

Food stamps recipient Alicia Felix of Oakland County’s Royal Oak Township said cost and variety are the reasons she shops at The Lathrup Village Farmers market.

“I can purchase multiple things, fresh fruit and vegetables and get a better price than at the grocery store,” she said.

Amy Werokna of Orion Township said she appreciates the health and financial benefits of using food stamps at the Lake Orion Farmers Market.

“For us, getting the fresh vegetables and fruits that are more healthy is important,” Werokna said. “The prices, especially, I mean if we were to go to (a grocery store) to get these same apples, it would be twice as much.”