The Bloomington Community Farmers’ Market opened Saturday with an array of fresh produce, flowers and local music at Showers Common.
New to this year’s market is a program called “Market Match: Double Market Bucks Program.”
Because of a $20,000 grant from a private foundation, the market is offering to double the worth of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program food stamps when exchanged for Market Bucks. SNAP provides food assistance to low-income families and is designed to raise the nutritional level of these households. Market Bucks can be used like cash to purchase from the farmers’ market vendors.
“We are very excited,” Market Master Robin Hobson said. “It helps to provide access to fresh and local foods to more members of the community.”
The exchange program will cover up to $18 worth of SNAP benefits, equal to $36 Market Bucks.
“We had a really good turnout,” Farmers’ Market Leader Crystal Ritter said as she manned the Market Match booth. “We had a long line of people this morning.”
The program will run until the grant is completely used, which Ritter estimates will last the entire market season and perhaps run into the next season.
The opening of the market season also brought back many returning vendors, like McCullough Farms.
The McCullough family has been coming to the market since 1988, Brandon McCullough said as he stood next to his grandparents and their truck loaded with sweet potatoes.
The McCulloughs will also sell sweet corn in the summer, he explained — the variety of produce at the market will increase as the season continues.
He added that it was a pretty good turnout for the first market of the season, and he enjoyed interacting with the customers.
“I like the relationships we form,” McCullough said. “We get a lot of repeat customers. People really like to have that connection with the person selling them their food.”
Bloomington resident Victoria Bledsoe said she comes to the market to socialize and buy local, organic foods.
“The food here is way better,” she said. “It’s not shipped across the country.”
Meanwhile, right next door in City Hall, the Department of Community and Family Resources, IU Health Bloomington and the Monroe County Health Department sponsored free health screenings and educational information in honor of Public Health Week.
“We wanted to do an event to promote to the community what public health is,” Nancy Woolery, Department of Community and Family Resources Health Projects manager, said. “I think a lot of it is preventative care. We like to have people have these screenings just in case there is a problem so we refer them to their doctor.”
Next week’s market will feature “Energy Synergy: Sustainable Energy and You” from 9 a.m. to noon April 13 at Showers Common.
Hobson said with 140 vendor applications for this year, she looks forward to a successful market season.
“The market goes on through rain or shine, April through the end of November,” Hobson said.