HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - The Hattiesburg Farmers Market is giving people on food stamps a new way to buy and eat fresh food.
Starting in March, the market starts the Fre$h Savings program, funded by the AARP Foundation, which allows people with SNAP benefits to use their cards to buy fresh foods. More than that, it essentially doubles the amount of money they can spend. If they pay $50 for items like meat, milk or bread, they receive the same amount of money to buy fruits and vegetables.
"There is no catch," said Monicah Brumfield, director of the Hattiesburg Farmers Market. "This is actually giving them extra money to spend on fresh fruits and vegetables, so they have purchased their items that they would buy normally - milk, cheese, bread - and they don't have to choose whether or not they're going to get fresh fruits and vegetables that day."
Brumfield said the whole goal of the farmers market is to get more people in Hattiesburg eating fresh foods, and this program will make that possible for more people.
"That's our ultimate goal here with the farmers market," she said. "Yes, we love to have a big event. We like to have a lot of people out, but the goal is to provide fresh fruits and vegetables, healthier food options to more people of our area. So this program is going to do that, and we are super excited about it."
Andrea Saffle, executive director of the Hattiesburg Historic Downtown Association, hopes this allows more people to experience everything, not just the food, the farmers market has to offer.
"I think being able to accept the SNAP card, for the market, it really is going to expand the reach and the accessibility of the market," Saffle said. "It's such a cool farmers market. It's not a typical farmers market, fruit stand kind of thing. They have live music and entertainment and arts. A little bit of everything, so I think being able to really expand that to a broader section of the community that's downtown, I think, is just a great thing."
The Hattiesburg Farmers Market opens for 2017 on March 23.