Samantha is a Health Communication Intern at the MA Department of Public Health
It’s not everyday you come across a college student who gets excited about the health of the local community. But Charlie Sellars, a student at Williams College, may be the exception. When asked the best part about the SNAPx2 program in North Adams, Charlie says “I’ve never been part of something where so many partner organizations are devoted to the same mission!”
Charlie is one of five Williams College students who have recently partnered with Northern Berkshire Mass in Motion and the North Adams Farmers Market. While everyone involved comes from a slightly different organization, they all agree on one thing – the importance of increasing access to affordable, local produce.
This past January, the unique partnership spent two weeks creating a plan to raise awareness and increase participation of the SNAPx2 program at North Adams Farmers Market.
SNAPx2 is a food stamp doubling program that makes fresh local food more accessible to low-income individuals and households. When a person on food stamps (aka SNAP) swipes his/her Benefit Card at a market’s EBT machine for $10, s/he receives $20 to spend on fresh food and food-producing plants – all directly from local farmers.
The students’ goal for this project was to seek out the most knowledgeable members of the North Adams community for recommendations on how to increase participation in the SNAPx2 program. They used these recommendations to create action plans and a toolkit for the city of North Adams, the North Adams Farmers Market and Mass in Motion to implement.
In addition to raising awareness through word of mouth and printed materials, the partnership recommended that markets hold cooking demonstrations and provide recipes on site. That’s where REACH for Community Health and North Berkshire WIC enter the picture.
The partnership’s next steps are to work with REACH and WIC to offer health screenings, cooking demonstrations, cooking classes, and healthy eating suggestions at the farmers market.
The Berkshire Food Project may also pitch in by setting up mobile EBT booths during their daily free lunch offerings at food pantries. Here, SNAP recipients can learn more about the SNAPx2 program and swipe their cards for doubled tokens in a place they might feel more comfortable doing so. And by spending money on the market ahead of time, they’re much more likely to come over the weekend.
But work to improve the program won’t end there. The partnership plans to evaluate the success of SNAPx2 by taking a closer look at what times the markets are held, and the overall comfort level of SNAP recipients.
The North Adams Community Coalition is also working with Williams College and additional local colleges to create an internship with the North Adams Farmers Market.
For North Adams, the local collegiate community may just prove to be the recipe for SNAPx2 success!
Find out more about doubling points at local farmers' markets.