Collingswood and Camden County government officials joined Green Team representatives and local healthcare partner Virtua on Wednesday to launch several new programs to increase food equity and combat food insecurity for area residents. The initiatives include:
- Accepting SNAP benefits at the Collingswood Farmers’ Market, Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon, May to November
- Providing 100% matching benefits on EBT/SNAP purchases at the Collingswood Farmers' Market
- Bringing back Virtua Health’s colorful Eat Well Mobile Farmers' Market, offering deeply discounted produce plus a 50% discount on SNAP purchases. Wednesdays year-round from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Thanks to the work and collaboration of Collingswood Green Team members and borough officials and staff, and several non-profit partners, the Collingswood Farmers’ Market now accepts Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) payments. Customers can use their SNAP/EBT cards to purchase household food products such as fruits and vegetables, meats and poultry, dairy products, and even seeds and plants which produce food for households to eat. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the largest federal nutrition assistance program. Accepting SNAP/EBT will help families access healthier food options while also supporting local farmers.
The news of this program comes at a time when area families in need are struggling due to soaring food prices and as the federal government’s temporary boost to SNAP benefits came to an end. Earlier this year Governor Murphy signed legislation that nearly doubles the minimum benefit for low-income households in the state from $50 to $95 monthly to help ease the cuts, but statewide estimates from food pantries show upticks in demand as high as 20%. According to Feeding America, the largest hunger relief organization in the United States, 1 in 10 children in New Jersey are facing hunger and 38% of households receiving SNAP benefits have children. Senior Citizens account for over 60% of households receiving benefits.
“The reality is that families are still struggling to make ends meet and we need to ensure no family goes hungry and that everyone has access to purchase healthy produce at our wonderful Farmers’ Market. The program helps families and supports our market and farmers, it’s really a win-win,” said Jim Maley, Collingswood Mayor.
“What we eat and how that food is produced is all part of a healthy and sustainable food system,” said Morgan Robinson, Commissioner Liaison to the Collingswood Green Team. “Processed foods increase greenhouse gases, contribute to higher levels of food waste, and can lead to poor health outcomes. We know that locally sourced farm-to-table foods are good for our health and our environment.”
The Borough has also been approved to implement City Green’s Food Bucks program. The program helps customers stretch SNAP dollars by providing a dollar-for-dollar match on SNAP/EBT purchases at the Farmers’ Market.Robinson added the importance of these programs is about more than food equity. “These programs can help engage all of our residents to be a part of our community. The farmers market on Saturday’s is a great gathering space where neighbors come together, shop our local farms, listen to music, and learn about civic involvement.
By providing these benefits we not only are increasing access to fresh foods but also sending a message that this is everyone’s community, and you are a part of it regardless of your income.”
Thanks to a partnership with Virtua Health and the Camden County Commissioners, the Borough also brought back the Virtua Eat Well Mobile Farmers' Market this month. This 23-foot bus brimming with fresh produce offers affordable prices and greater access to produce year-round with the goal of improving health and ensuring good nutrition in underserved areas.
Open to all area residents, the mobile market visits Camden County’s Newton Lake Park on Wednesdays from 11:30 to 12:30, at 520 North Newton Lake Drive in Collingswood. A small bag with six pieces of produce costs $3. A medium bag of 12 pieces costs $6. A large bag of 20 pieces costs $9. Customers who pay with SNAP/EBT cards get 50% off (one bag per customer, per visit). For more details and real-time updates, visit @VirtuaEatWell on social media.
“We’re thrilled to return to Collingswood and increase this community’s year-round access to fresh, healthy, affordable food,” said April Schetler, Virtua Health’s assistant vice president of community health engagement. “Our mobile market team will offer special events throughout the year, as well – free recipes, nutrition education, preventative health screenings, and other opportunities – to support our customers’ health and wellbeing.”
“With prices soaring, so many families are under immense stress when it comes to putting food on their tables. These programs will give some much-needed relief to our residents when it comes to paying for groceries,” Camden County Commissioner Jonathan Young said. “Allowing SNAP payments at the farmers market and partnering with Virtua for the mobile market allows residents to have access to healthier food options and supports our local farmers at the same time.”
The Collingswood Farmers’ Market runs every Saturday from May until November, 8 a.m. to noon, along the PATCO between Collings and Irvin Avenues. The Virtua Mobile Farmers Market also makes other stops in Camden and Burlington counties. For the full schedule, please visit www.virtua.org/eatwell.