MOUNT DESERT ISLAND—It is possible to get locally-gown fresh organic produce in season using food assistance programs such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, popularly known as food stamps) and Women, Infants and Children (WIC).
Farmers markets in Bar Harbor, Southwest Harbor and Northeast Harbor all have vendors that accept WIC farmers market checks. WIC is a program that provides weekly assistance obtaining healthy food for income-eligible pregnant women, and for children up to five years old.
Bar Harbor Farm is accepting SNAP benefits for the first time this year as payment for their Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. SNAP provides monthly financial assistance for income-eligible households, with or without dependents.
“We’re quite excited about it,” said Rose Avenia of Bar Harbor Farm. “We want to make our shares more available to a wider variety of people.”
Through the CSA program, members buy a “share” at the start of the season, which is paid back by a weekly supply of vegetables from the farm. CSA members on the SNAP program can purchase a share for half-price, and pay it in monthly withdrawals from their EBT card rather than up front. The other half of the farm share amount is paid by the Harvest Bucks Program, sponsored by the Maine Federation of Farmers Markets.
Avenia said shares are going fast this year, as Governor Mills’ stay-at-home order is renewing public interest in locally-grown food. However, she said the farm is “holding a couple spots” for people on the SNAP program.
Beech Hill Farm in Mount Desert accepts SNAP for both its CSA program and its farm stand that opens in June. According to Beech Hill Farm’s Anna Davis, payment plans are available for CSA members on SNAP.
The farm also participates in the Harvest Bucks Program that increases the worth of SNAP dollars spent at the farm stand. According to Katie Freedman of Healthy Acadia, SNAP benefits spent at the farm stand are doubled.
The farm, operated by College of the Atlantic, also accepts a financial assistance voucher program called Share the Harvest, which is student run.
Beech Hill Farm staff is currently assessing how to operate the farm stand this season in light of social distancing recommendations by Maine Center for Disease Control. Davis said, “we hope to have the farm stand open in some capacity starting mid-June.”