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Forsyth Farmers Market gets $50,000 USDA grant

Forsyth Farmers Market has received a $50,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, part of a new initiative to help low-income families gain access to healthier foods.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced on Wednesday nearly $31 million in local, state and national grants to organizations that support people enrolled in SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, more commonly known as food stamps. Forsyth Farmers Market was the only organization in Georgia to receive one of the grants.

Since it began in 2009, Forsyth Farmers Market has partnered with nonprofit Wholesome Wave Georgia to match SNAP benefits for shoppers, doubling their EBT dollars to purchase more local fruits and veggies.

“This is important not just for us but for the country and the local food movement in general,” said Terri Schell, coordinator of the Saturday morning market.

Schell said the money will go toward their matching program as well as new outreach efforts like an upcoming mobile market that will travel to under-served areas of the community.

She said the grant was a great opportunity to increase access to local foods for all Savannahians.

“This is the first time the USDA has put funding toward incentive programs,” Schell said. “Wholesome Wave did quite a bit of research on how these incentive programs help lower income people participate in local food systems.”

Participation in Forsyth’s SNAP matching program has grown for five consecutive years, according to their data. In 2013, those receiving benefits purchased $31,190 in food, a 38 percent increase from 2012.

The grants were made through the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) program authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill. For projects to qualify for FINI grants, organizations are required to increase purchases of fruits and vegetables by providing incentives like the matching program at Forsyth.

In a press release, Vilsack said it was part of the USDA’s ongoing commitment to encourage low-income families to put more healthy foods in their grocery baskets.

“These creative community partnerships also benefit regional food producers and local economies along with SNAP participants,” he said in a statement. 

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