Pensacola, Florida
Sunday December 9th 2018

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Farm Fresh Funds

By Shelby Nalepa

In the wake of President Trump’s proposal to replace food stamp benefits with prepackaged “food boxes,” is a step in a different direction for local benefit recipients.

Flora Bama Farms is now welcoming EBT cardholders at their retail market seven days a week. Low-income customers will now have access to fresh produce from local farmers through the Fresh Access Bucks program when they come in to shop.

Fresh Access Bucks is a statewide incentive program designed to encourage SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) recipients to redeem their benefits at farmers markets to purchase fresh, healthy foods directly from local farmers.

“The program is really exciting and interactive,” said Sandy Veilleux, co-owner of Flora Bama Farms. “In addition to live cooking demonstrations and taste tests, our crew will act as ambassadors to help customers shop and choose products. We want people to feel empowered and knowledgeable about the foods they are purchasing, how they can take it home and cook and how much they can stretch their dollar throughout the week with fresh produce products.”

Fresh Access Bucks, made possible by a grant from the nonprofit Florida Organic Growers, even allows Flora Bama Farms to match up to 50 percent of customer’s produce purchases, meaning families can go home with twice the amount of fresh fruits and vegetables than if they were to shop at a traditional supermarket.

“Flora Bama Farms is the 43rd farmers market in Florida to get on board with Fresh Access Bucks, and is one out of only two markets in the Pensacola area to offer the program,” Veilleux said.

The second market, Vicky’s Veggies and More, sets up at various locations throughout the week including the Escambia Health Department, CA Weis Elementary School, Westminster Village, Blackwater Trail Antiques in Milton and the T&W Flea Market on weekends.

Fresh Access Bucks started in 2013 and has generated over $600,000 in healthy food purchases for over 400 Florida farmers. Since its inception, the program has also resulted in over 7,300 new market shoppers.

“Normally what happens with small farmers is that they just don’t have enough labor,” Veilleux said. “This program will only promote our local Florida farmers and across state lines to our Alabama farmers even more and allow them to do what they do best, and that’s to grow really great, healthy food.”

Veilleux said that the program’s partnership with Flora Bama Farms has been five years in the making. The Fresh Access Bucks program was previously operated during Palafox Market in recent years, but the new partnership with Flora Bama Farms now allows SNAP recipients to shop any day of the week, with tons more options.

Flora Bama’s 5,000-square-foot wholesale space on Mobile Highway features produce from dozens of Florida and Alabama farmers including Craine Farms in Loxley, Ala., Sawer Farms in Slocomb, Ala., Carter Farm in Century, Fla., West Coast Mushrooms from Quincy, Fla., as well as local producers like C & D Grits from Cantonment, Meme’s Poultry and Quail Sales and East Hill Honey.

Opening five years ago, Flora Bama Farms operates a wholesale division in addition to its retail space, providing over 200 restaurants in Pensacola and surrounding areas with local farm-fresh produce. Veilleux said that the farm-to-table mission Flora Bama Farms works to promote can now extend to even more customers in the community through the Fresh Access Bucks program.

“Long term, this program will not only help markets with their revenue but most importantly bring healthy, local foods into households that really need it,” Veilleux said.  “It’s so far reaching. Some of our crew members are on the EBT program so it’s even closer to home than people realize.”

Fresh Access Bucks launched at Flora Bama Farms the first week of February, and Veilleux said that they will also be accepting WIC vouchers at the market. For more information, visit freshaccessbucks.com.

Flora Bama Farms
6404 Mobile Highway
Monday-Saturday 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sunday 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
florabamafarms.com