It has been five months since expanded SNAP funding expired.
There is a new program that is helping people on SNAP get more food for their money. It helps stretch out different types of food assistance by matching that assistance at farmers markets.
Farming is a family affair for the Haffeys. What they pick on their Enon Valley farm, they sell at the Bellevue Farmers Market.
The day Channel 11 stopped by, they had tomatoes, peppers, onions, cucumbers, pickles, zucchini, shallots, lettuce and kale.
It’s hard to believe their first year was spent only farming garlic.
The Haffeys credit some of their growth to a little-known local food assistance program called Food Assistance Match. It’s at the farmers market where they sell their produce and shop.
“We take any food assistance benefit, whether it’s SNAP, WIC, Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program, and we double the value of those benefits,” said Albert Ciuksza, co-founder of Food Assistance Match.
So, with the program, participants get $40 worth of food for only $20.
Ciuksza helped to start the Food Assistance Match program at the Bellevue Farmers Market last year and has expanded the program to Cranberry and Bethel Park this year.
“One of the things that we really wanted to do was make it easier for people who are underprivileged or didn’t have the same access be able to enjoy a space like you’re going to see here in Bellevue,” said Ciuksza.
“With the match program, I’m only paying $3 for these,” said shopper Mariah Barnes.
She makes sure her work schedule aligns so she can get to the Bellevue Farmers Market every Wednesday. She has SNAP and can spend $30 to $60 dollars a week because of the FAM program.
“It helps encourage people to eat healthier,” said Barnes. “It’s just a great program. It helps to support farmers because they’re getting more business.”
Farmers like the Haffeys.
“The following year we did quadruple what we were expecting for the year, just because of the FAM program,” said Jeremy Haffey of Haffey Family Farms.
And that helped them buy more equipment for their farm.
“Normally on our old transplanter, we would take several days to plant a field,” said Haffey. “Now we can plant a whole field in a couple of hours.”
But they haven’t forgotten where they came from when they once produced only one crop.
“We qualified for SNAP. We did most of our grocery shopping here (Bellevue Farmers Market) once we found out about the match program because we were able to buy things that were better quality than what we would find in the store that ended up being cheaper because of what we found with the match,” said Haffey.
With the average shopper spending $20 a week, Ciuksza is hoping to eventually expand the Food Assistance Match statewide, as he says Pennsylvania is one of only ten states that doesn’t offer a double match program.
Those who have the benefits can participate in FAM at Bellevue until October, Bethel Park until the end of September, and Cranberry until end of September, too.
For more information on Food Assistance Match: https://foodassistancematch.org/.
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