Charlottesville farmers market opens doors for low-income families
Market offers fresh options to SNAP recipients
“I used to come to the Market and it seemed so expensive so I wouldn’t buy much,” Spencer said. “But now that I’m on SNAP, I’m able to better support the farmers.”
More than fruits and vegetables are on sale at the Charlottesville farmers market, which recently started its 2014 season and will be open downtown every Saturday morning through December. With the acceptance of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits at the local market, families of all incomes have the freedom to shop for healthier lifestyle choices.
SNAP is a federal program that was started in the 1930s and expanded in the 1960s to be the top program for feeding low income families. SNAP outreach coordinator Kyle Gardiner, a first-year Batten graduate student, said the farmers market has used the SNAP program for the past four years.
“With the SNAP program at the market, lower income families are able to have access to foods that are top-notch in healthiness,” Gardiner said.
Farmers market enthusiast Elsa Spencer said she has received SNAP benefits for almost two years.
“I used to come to the market and it seemed so expensive so I wouldn’t buy much,” Spencer said. “But now that I’m on SNAP, I’m able to better support the farmers.”
At the farmers market, SNAP allows low-income families to purchase items they can take home to eat, however, the program excludes hot foods that are eaten immediately, such as tacos or sandwiches. One hundred fifty families used the SNAP program at the market last year, a number which has grown each year.
Farmers market attendee and SNAP user Reagan Greenfield said she lives within walking distance of the market, attends weekly and typically spends 20 to 30 dollars per trip.
“I love that I’m able to get fresh, local food and support local vendors while still staying on my budget,” Greenfield said.
Vendors benefit from the SNAP program because it means they get more business. The market is home to a wide variety of businesses.
Cygnet Hollow Farm owner Lindsay Swan said she uses the profit she makes selling yarn, baked goods and eggs at the market to help offset the cost of maintaining her Louisa farm.
“It’s my second year at the market and during the off months, I sell my goods online to family and friends,” Swan said. “My profit varies greatly from week to week depending on day, people, weather, many factors. I would say I make between $60 and $300 per market.”
Daniel Perry, the owner of Jam According to Daniel, has been selling his local fruit jam at the market for seven years.
“Selling the jam here at the market is my livelihood,” Perry said. “I make an average of $700 in gross profit per week. This market has helped grow my business tremendously. I didn’t have a business before the market.”
Bee Dreaming Designs owner Robin Braun said she sells handmade earrings and cards as a part-time job, in addition to another job.
“This in my third year at the market and I love having access to all these people and being able to represent my store and myself here,” Braun said.
The market also sees business from Charlottesville residents who are not SNAP users. Community member Katie Lecker said she comes every weekend to see different vendors and vegetables that are in season.
“I love that the market is expanding,” Lecker said. “My favorite stands would probably be the tacos, the orchids and Jam According to Daniel. I spend about 20 dollars a week here.”
In addition to community members, the farmers market also attracts University students.
First-year College student Kendall Crowne said she just discovered the market.
“I love that everyone comes together as a huge community at the market,” Crowne said. “We get to have a taste of small, local businesses that we wouldn’t have had otherwise.”