LYNN – Denise Jennings was among the first in line on Thursday to select fresh vegetables from the Central Square Farmers Market.
“It’s great deal,” she said. “I got fresh carrots, corn, broccoli, apples, onions and peppers and I’m planning to make a salad tonight. It’s better than anything in the supermarket.”
Jennings was one of more than 200 shoppers who stood in long lines to pick though Granny Smith apples priced at $1.99 a pound, big cucumbers for 99 cents, corn on the cob at 75 cents each, and cauliflower, cabbage and eggplant for $1.99 a pound.
The market will continue through October.
The program, managed by The Food Project in Lynn, is part of the Healthy Incentives Program which matches Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients with nutrition assistance to the needy and provides economic benefits to communities.
“It’s a great way to make people healthier and grow customers for local farms,” said James Harrison, The Food Project’s executive director.
When SNAP recipients use their EBT card to buy produce from Bay State farmers markets, their $40 benefit is worth $80 in fresh food.
The three-year program, launched this year, is supported by a $3.4 million grant from U.S. Department of Agriculture, and $1.35 million in funding from the Legislature. To date, the program has distributed more than $1.7 million in incentives, supporting local farms and improving the health for some of the most vulnerable households.
Anyone can buy produce at the market, not just the needy.
Nearly 300 farms and markets participate in the program, and more are coming.
Canneri Moquete from Riverdale Farm in Groton, who has been selling vegetables in Lynn since 1993, has seen sales blossom.
“We are seeing more and more customers and the lines get longer and longer,” he said. “We love it.”
Still, Moscow natives and retirees Viktor and Galina Shnayder had just one complaint.
“We need a farm store year round,” Victor said. “This is only for a few months, this is not good enough.”
Because of demand, the program will set up shop on Saturdays at the YMCA, once a month though the winter, Harrison said.
State Rep. Thomas Walsh (D-Peabody) dropped by to check out the market.
“I am very impressed and this is an enormous opportunity to buy better food that’s more healthy,” he said. “It’s a real building block for the community.”