July 12 – For lower-income residents, fresh Michigan-grown produce is now within reach. Farm markets in Boyne City, Charlevoix, Gaylord and Pellston – and, soon, the markets in Harbor Springs and Elk Rapids – will accept the Electronic Balance Transfer (EBT) cards issued to those participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), a Federal program that helps lower-income individuals and families buy the food they need for good health. In Michigan, the card shows the Mackinac Bridge and is called a “Bridge Card.”
"Cardholders can use their cards to buy breads, meat, dairy, cereals, fruits and vegetables," said Lynne DeMoor, Community Health Coordinator for the Health Department of Northwest Michigan. DeMoor added that seeds or plants, such as tomato plants, can be purchased for home gardens to produce food for personal use. What's more, the Boyne, Charlevoix and Pellston markets offer "Double-Up Food Bucks," which offer consumers FREE market money by doubling the value of any SNAP credit used. Cards are swiped at a special booth, and the cardholder is given tokens to use at the market. "Just look for the big banner that says, 'Bridge Cards Welcome Here!'" DeMoor advised.
"It's great for the farmers," DeMoor continued. "It's also great for the people using Bridge Cards, and for the farm markets themselves. With the Health Department spreading the word, several markets have said they've had an upswing in business from our local cardholders. We're also holding fresh food cooking demonstrations at several of the markets, and anyone is welcome to attend." Cooking demonstration schedules and other farm market information can be found on the Health Department's Web site at www.nwhealth.org/farmersmarkets.html.
Eligibility for the Food Assistance Program is based on the assets, income and allowable expenses of household members. Apply for benefits online at www.mibridges.michigan.gov/access/. In addition to the community farm markets, DeMoor said some permanent produce stands accept the card as well.
The Health Department of Northwest Michigan is mandated by the Michigan Public Health Code to promote wellness, prevent disease, provide quality healthcare, address health problems of vulnerable populations, and protect the environment for the residents and visitors of Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet, and Otsego counties. For additional information, visit www.nwhealth.org or call (800) 432-4121.