Just two days after Thanksgiving, the Saco River Winter Market (SRWM) in Biddeford launched its Maine Harvest Bucks program. Now SNAP shoppers in Biddeford, Saco and other nearby towns can stretch their limited SNAP benefits in the coldest and costliest time of the year (one study finds 1 in 3 low-income families face limiting their food spending in winter months). SRWM’s program is run in partnership with a local nonprofit, Heart of Biddeford, and the earnest work of one dedicated volunteer.
In 2016, Saco River Winter Market ran a SNAP pilot program to see if they were able to attract SNAP shoppers to the market. Their efforts were successful, with new shoppers feeling welcomed to the market and new customer relationships forming for vendors. Pam Carr, a former vendor at the market, is the info booth volunteer and point-person for operating Maine Harvest Bucks. “I believe both the SNAP and Harvest Bucks programs are win-wins for the community and our vendors” says Carr. “Everyone deserves access to fresh local foods and I am inspired by the both our SNAP customers and also the farmers who feel that ‘this is why I farm’…making sure everyone can buy fresh, local, healthy foods.”
There are more than 4,000 individuals, mostly children and seniors enrolled in SNAP in Biddeford alone. This program empowers them to buy local and stretch their limited SNAP dollars with Maine Harvest Bucks. The market had been planning to launch MHB in the June of 2017, until market members decided to take a hiatus for the summer and continue to keep SRWM a winter-only market. We are fortunate to have them aboard and providing SNAP access and Maine Harvest Bucks to SNAP shoppers in the Biddeford area.