BROOKSVILLE — In Hernando County, more than 46,000 residents shop for food and produce using the federal government’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
Now, thanks to Fresh Access Bucks, a program launched in May, those SNAP recipients will have a healthy incentive to shop fresh and local.
Each SNAP dollar spent at a participating merchant, up to $40 each market day, will earn the buyer a 100 percent match toward the purchase of produce. Fresh Access Bucks can either be used to purchase farm fresh produce that day or save it for a future market day.
According to Feeding Florida, Fresh Access Bucks is a USDA-funded statewide nutrition incentive program that encourages SNAP recipients to redeem their benefits at farmers markets, produce stands, CSAs and mobile markets to purchase healthy produce directly from Florida farmers.
This is a big deal for Hernando County, said Mike DeFelice, president of the Hernando Growers Association. The weekly Brooksville Farmers Market began participation in Fresh Access Bucks at the May 26 market and will continue each week.
“The Hernando County Growers Association Inc. is privileged to now offer the Fresh Access Bucks program at the Brooksville Farmers Market,” Angela Okrasinski, director of membership and vendor manager for Brooksville Farmers Market, said in a news release.
“Our mission is improving food access in our community and building an agricultural economy for Hernando County,” the Growers Association release said. “Providing an opportunity for everyone to access fresh local produce through FAB enables us to build a healthy community and sustainable farms.”
The Brooksville Farmers Market is one of 51 participating farmers markets across Florida. The program will continue each Sunday. People only need to be SNAP recipients to qualify for the FAB program.
The program will increase the affordability of healthy foods while exposing consumers to nutrition education efforts, such as cooking demos at participating FAB markets. These efforts play an important role in increasing the purchase and consumption of fresh, local produce.
Brooksville Farmers’ Market is the first in the county to participate in FAB.
“Our Farmers’ Cooperative, the Hernando County Growers’ Association, is committed to building agriculture in Hernando County and improving access to the very best fresh food for our community,” Okrasinski said. “Since our beginning in 2017, bringing the FAB program to Hernando County has been one of our leading objectives and we are proud to have the opportunity to offer this very special program,” added Okrasinski.
The Brooksville Farmers’ Market is staged at 615 Old Hospital Drive. It is open each Sunday from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. each Sunday.