Prince George’s County residents enrolled in the federal food stamp program can visit a few area farmers markets to receive fresh fruit, vegetables and produce.
Four of the markets in Capitol Heights, Cheverly, Greenbelt and Riverdale Park will participate in the Maryland Market Money program, which allows residents in nutrition programs such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Women Infants and Children (WIC) and Farmers Market Nutrition Program (FMNP).
This year’s program will increase the number of market participants from 21 to 35 statewide. Some of the money to expand it came from the state Department of Agriculture for marketing materials, hire people to run the program at local markets and equipment to accept customer payments.
In Prince George’s, the markets in Capitol Heights, Cheverly and Greenbelt joined the program this year.
“I would hope more of our farmer’s markets will join us,” said Amy Crone, executive director of the Maryland Farmers Market Association that oversees the Market Money program.
Crone said the state has 145 farmers markets, but each must meet certain requirements to participate.
For instance, each market must have at least two vendors who are farmer producers and sell raw or processed items. Markets must also accept all forms of nutrition benefits and comply with data collection and reporting on the program.
The goal will be to exceed last year’s total of $263,300 in federal nutrition benefits and Maryland Market Money matching funds at 21 farmers markets.
Residents who spend $5 can receive an additional, or “match,” of $5 in tokens per market day to purchase fruit, poultry and other food.
However, Prince George’s residents will be able to receive a $10 match after spending the same amount on each market day.
“While it might not sound like a lot of money, doubling $10 to $20 can have a tremendous impact on the purchasing power to buy fresh fruit and vegetables,” said Gloria Brown Burnett, director of the county’s Department of Social Services. “We believe that any opportunity to strengthen families helps create stability in the lives of our county residents.”
Besides state funding, the county allocated $120,000 in next year’s fiscal budget toward the program.
Michael J. Wilson, director of Maryland Hunger Solutions in Baltimore, said 79,000 residents use SNAP benefits in Prince George’s.
However, each market opens at various times as follows:
• The Riverdale Park market opens all year from 3-7 p.m. every Thursday.
• Greenbelt Farmers Market from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Sunday until Nov. 24.
• The Capital Market of 20743 in Capitol Heights will open from 4-8 p.m. every Friday from June 7 until Sept. 27.
• Cheverly Community Market will open from 8 a.m. to noon every other Saturday from June 8 through Oct. 26.
Residents who may travel to other parts of the state can use the tokens at participating markets. Two in neighboring Montgomery County are open year-round, including from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Saturday in downtown Silver Spring and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Sunday in Takoma Park.