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Local farmers markets accepting EBT, SNAP cards

Ray Buettner of Wadena helps a customer at his stand during the Wadena Farmer's Market last Friday afternoon.1 / 6
Customers browse an abundance of fresh produce at the Wadena Farmer's Market, held every Friday afternoon. Find it by going north on Highway 71, between Burger King and Pizza Hut.2 / 6
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Young shoppers at the Wadena Farmer's Market can take part in the Power of Produce (POP) Club and receive a $2 token to spend on fresh produce.4 / 6
Ray Buettner of Wadena helps a customer with their fresh produce at his stand during the Wadena Farmer's Market last Friday afternoon.5 / 6
Customers enjoy shopping for fresh produce from local growers at the Wadena's Farmer Market, held Friday afternoons. It can be found north on Highway 71 between Burger King and Pizza Hut. 6 / 6

Making good, healthy food easily available to everyone and giving them the tools they need to prepare it are some of the goals of Marilyn Hofland, who will tell you she'll go anywhere she thinks people might need help stretching their food dollar and increasing their knowledge of nutrition and cooking skills.

As the SNAP-Ed Educator for East Ottertail and Wadena Counties, one of the ways she is trying to accomplish that goal is by getting the word out that participants in the SNAP program can use their EBT-SNAP cards at the Wadena farmers markets to buy fresh produce.

Her efforts have paid off, as she said she's seen an increase in people using the program in the three years she's been working in Wadena. "I think it's because people want to eat healthier and they see the food is fresher, there is a better selection, and they like that they can double their money."

SNAP participants double their money through Market Bucks. When a SNAP participant spends $10 on SNAP-eligible food items, they get $10 more to use at the farmers market. Hofland also holds classes at the market to help participants learn how to choose produce and provides recipes on how to prepare what they've bought.

Ashlee Ervin-Tupper was out at the farmers market shopping with her young children and said she has learned quite a bit from taking part in the program, especially when it comes to stretching her food budget. "With a family of nine we have to make every dollar count, and what I've learned through the program has really helped."

SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) is the United State's Department of Agriculture's (USDA) program that offers nutrition assistance to low-income individuals and families. SNAP-Ed is the educational component of the program. SNAP-Ed teaches families or individuals about good nutrition and how to make their food dollars stretch further. According to the University of Minnesota Extension office, 39 percent of SNAP-Ed participants reported eating more fruits and vegetables after completing a series of classes.

Ray Buettner of Wadena was out selling his fresh produce last Friday and said he has seen participation in the program grow over the years and that he's glad to see more people taking part.

"I think one of my favorite parts of being apart of this is of course, growing the food," he said smiling. "But then it's also great knowing that something you grew is a blessing to someone else."

Congressman Rick Nolan of Minnesota's 8th district visited the Farmers Market on Friday to to see the impact SNAP is having in his district.

"I've always been a supporter of the SNAP program and getting wholesome food direct from farmers, " Nolan said.

Hofland sees the benefits to both consumers and farmers. Consumers get to see where their food comes from and local growers get the support they need to stay in business.

Hofland does not stop with helping people buy fresh local produce, she knows that sometimes people are hesitant to buy it because they don't know what to do with it, so she teaches classes on how to prepare their new found bounty. "First they need the knowledge, then they need the access to the food, then they need to know how to prepare it. Those are all skills I try to teach the people who participate."