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Moore County Farmers Markets to Accept Debit, SNAP Benefit Cards

| Date Posted: 4/3/2013

Farmers Market

The Farmers Market at the Center for Health & Fitness-Pinehurst will open for the 2013 season on Monday, April 15. Community residents as well as FirstHealth employees are encouraged to support the market that will be open weekly through Oct. 28.

PINEHURST – Few things are more important to Tameka Woodard than helping her sons, ages 16 and 9, avoid a family history of diabetes and high blood pressure.

The FirstHealth of the Carolinas-sponsored Happy Kitchen classes she attended at the Berkley Community Center in Aberdeen gave her lots of healthy cooking tips and nutritional recipes for working toward that goal. The classes also introduced her to the nutritional benefits of the fresh fruits and vegetables she gets from the year-round Moore County Farmers Market on Morganton Road in Southern Pines.

Woodard will be able to shop for even greater quantities and varieties when the two seasonal farmers markets – at the FirstHealth Center for Health & Fitness-Pinehurst and Southeast Broad Street in Southern Pines – open later this month.

“I’m all about fresh fruits and vegetables,” she says.

This year, Woodard and other lovers of locally grown produce will be able to make their farmers market purchases with electronic debit cards. Both bank-issued cards and SNAP EBT (Support Nutrition Assistance Program Electronic Benefit Transfer) cards will be accepted.

SNAP is a federally supported nutrition assistance program for low-income individuals and families that is administered locally through the Moore County Department of Social Services.

Until recently, Moore County farmers markets didn’t have the technology for accepting debit payments. With the availability of electronic debit equipment, however, shoppers will soon be able to use their cards at all three area market locations.

Since the vendors themselves will not accept debit transactions, shoppers who want to use their debit or SNAP EBT cards to make purchases should seek out market manager Harry Webster at his Millstone Farm tent. Bank card holders will get cash for their purchases (with a $1 transaction fee) while SNAP participants will get tokens valued at $1 per token.

Melissa Watford, a health educator for FirstHealth Community Health Services, sees the debit card availability as a positive for both shoppers and vendors. Shoppers will have another resource for making purchases while vendors could see an increase in the number of shoppers.

Watford, who taught The Happy Kitchen course Woodard attended at the Berkley Community Center, has also been encouraged by the interest in healthy foods, healthy cooking and healthy eating displayed by Happy Kitchen participants. During the six-week course, participants get tips about preparing healthy menu items. They also make a low-cost dish each week and are encouraged to incorporate the healthy recipe into family meals.

The course focuses on the use of foods that are fresh, seasonal, and whenever possible, locally grown – hence, the farmers market tie-in.

“We try to encourage purchasing locally,” Watford says.

Woodard agrees.

“I’m all about community sustainability,” she says.

The Farmers Market located in the lower parking lot at the FirstHealth Center for Health & Fitness-Pinehurst will open for the season on Monday, April 15. The seasonal market on Southeast Broad Street in Southern Pines will open on Saturday, April 20. A third market, on Morganton Road in Southern Pines, operates year-round on Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

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