Farmers' markets across the United States are changing. Soon all markets will be able to accept food stamps thanks to a $4 million grant from the federal government.
News 5 learned the Abingdon Farmers' Market was the first in Virginia to get the equipment and offer access to help low-income families.
The fresh variety of organic produce is what Jamie Tubmen loves about the Abingdon Farmers' Market. It's important to her health and her budget. "I have food stamps; not many, but I do get some because I'm low income," she said.
She's able to shop local because this Farmers' Market accepts food stamps. People are able to pay simply by swiping their benefit card. "Then we give them the amount they purchased in wooden tokens that they can use with any vendor on eligible items for food stamps," said Sara Cardinale with Abingdon Farmers' Market.
News 5 learned locally grown produce is usually 75 percent cheaper, and the Abingdon Farmers' Market helps make every penny count. "With the EBT access at a farmers' market, a lot of people are also doing a double value coupon program which doubles and matches a food stamp use. So $5 turns into $10," added Cardinale.
"They give you twice as many tokens, so I can get twice the food," said Tubmen.
But this access also helps people that forget to carry cash. News 5 learned compared to EBT sales, Abingdon sees three times more sales in debit and credit cards. Kyle King usually spends $20 to $30 but had to swipe his debit card Saturday. "I don't usually carry cash, but I always have my debit card," he said.
The farmers' market on State Street in Bristol also has this kind of access and it's a win-win situation for farmers there as well. "You're supporting local farmers, you're helping your neighbors. It's also healthier for you, there is less transit so there are less preservatives in produce," said Jonathan Kiser with Rivermyst Farm.
News 5 learned systems will be set up in 4,000 markets across the U.S. Grants for the program range from $5,000 to more than $400,000.