Two identical bills, HB 2837 (link) and SB 727 (link), have been introduced in the Oregon Legislature this week. These bills direct the Department of Human Services to adopt a program to provide financial assistance to recipients of supplemental nutrition assistance (SNAP) for purchasing locally grown fruits and vegetables from participating farmers' markets, farm share sites and selected retail outlets in under-served areas. The programs will match the amounts a recipient spends on eligible foods using SNAP funds. The bill provides $3 million in funds and will take effect July 1, 2019, if passed.
These bills, the result of efforts of The Farmers Market Fund (link), Oregon Food Bank (link), and Oregon Farmers Markets Association (link), builds on The Farmers Market Fund's successful statewide pilot program that ran from 2015-2018. Ninety percent of SNAP customers reported that they were able to purchase more fruits and vegetables because of the match program. Usage of Double Up Food Bucks (DUFB) grew 10% at the Hillsdale Farmers’ Market last year. But SNAP token purchases grew 20% in the same year. The $10 match has a very real multiplier effect and really helps neighbors with limited income purchase healthy food.
What can you do right now? You can contact your state legislators. If you are not sure who is representing you, just enter your address here (link) and you can find out. You can also help spread the word in the community. Here is a one page flyer you can send to friends (link). We will be following this bill as it works its way through the legislature and will have updates in upcoming issues of The Grapevine.