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Sue Garvin helps children from the Child Care and Learning Center of Washington, Virginia, spend their PoPBucks with Tom Baughn of Green Wizard Farm in Broad Run at the Town of Warrenton’s Wednesday Farmers Market on July 10.

Low-income recipients of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program funding will now be able to use those dollars to purchase food at the Town of Warrenton’s Saturday Farmers Market.

Elizabeth Melson, farmers market manager for the Town of Warrenton, explained that those receiving SNAP benefits receive their benefits through electronic benefits transfer (EBT) on a card, like a prepaid debit card.

She said, “They will bring their card to the market manager booth and tell us how much in SNAP benefits they want to withdraw to spend at the market.

“We will then swipe their card in an EBT processing machine, they will enter their PIN, and once the requested benefits are confirmed and processed by the reader, the market staff will give them the amount requested -- in wooden tokens with blue text printed on them -- to use as currency with vendors, on eligible items.”

Melson said, “Vendors return tokens received with a report to the market manager at the end of the market day. Town staff then reconciles and issues reimbursement to farmers.” The town is reimbursed by the federal government.

It’s a simple process for SNAP recipients and vendors, but it was a long time coming, said Warrenton Town Manager Brandie Schaeffer. “The feds do not make it easy. There is a lot of paperwork. It’s a difficult process.”

SNAP benefits were accepted for the first time at the June 29 market.

Schaeffer said that the Wednesday morning market at the WARF is not accepting SNAP benefits at this time. She said that a town representative must be present, and staff is not available Wednesday morning.

PoPBucks

But there is another initiative that puts fresh food into the hands of children and families; PoPBucks were flowing freely at the July 10 Wednesday market at the WARF.

Garvin and Christal Lind were leading a group of children from the Child Care and Learning Center from Washington, Virginia. The elementary school-aged kids were excited to have their very own money to spend on the crisp, brightly colored produce. Vendor Tom Baughn of Green Wizard Farm in Broad Run was glad to be able to help the kids count out PoPBucks and answer their questions.

PoP stands for the Power of Produce. PoPBucks, in denominations of $2 each, may be used to buy anything that SNAP dollars may be used for – fruits and vegetables, but not soap, flowers or candy, for instance. Farmers Market vendors are reimbursed for any PoPBucks spent at their tables.

Charity Furness of Fauquier FISH (which administers the PoPBucks program) said that funding is provided by a $25,000 grant from the PATH Foundation, $4,000 from Fauquier FISH and $4,000 from the Fauquier Community Food Bank.

PoPBucks are distributed to children through the Fauquier County Schools, the Rappahannock County Schools, at Books on the Bus and First Friday events. Fauquier Community Child students on summer field trips to the farmers market also receive PoPBucks.

Furness said that children are given $4 in PoPBucks to spend at farmers markets in Warrenton (at the Saturday and Wednesday markets), The Plains (at Archwood Barns on Sundays) or in Rappahannock County (on Saturday at Pen Druid Brewery).

PoPBucks are also given to those who pick up food at Fauquier FISH or the Fauquier Community Food Bank. Families are given $10 to $40 to spend at farmers markets. Furness added that senior citizens at the Fauquier Senior Center receive PoPBucks when they visit the Wednesday market.

Furness said that the mission of the PoPBucks program is threefold: to support farmers markets and farmers; to educate children on fresh food and encourage them to meet farmers face to face; and to get fresh, healthy food on the tables of those who need it. “Those who are financially poor are often nutritionally poor as well.”

Melson said, “I think these programs bring new potential shoppers to the market and additional revenue for the vendors. I believe Charity has said it best, when she said programming such as PoP and SNAP can provide the recipients an experience and dignity of shopping at the farmers market.

“Farmers markets are not just places to purchase food. They are so much more. Markets are a community gathering place and we want ours to be inclusive, welcoming and fun. We want the experience to be accessible to as many people as possible.”

Kirsten Dueck of PATH explained that PoPBucks are coded so that administrators can track how the “money” is spent. As the vendors turn the PoPBucks in for reimbursement, administrators can see where the bucks originated and where they were spent. This year, between June 1 and July 13, $5,514 worth of PoPBucks were redeemed at farmers markets.

Reach Robin Earl at rearl@fauquier.com

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