Kent City Council accepted $38,855 in grant funding Wednesday from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to go toward educating the public on how food stamp benefits can be used at the Haymaker Farmers' Market.
Bridget Susel, Kent's community development director, said the formal acceptance of the funds will allow the city to start repaying the Haymaker Farmers' Market for the work its director, Kelly Ferry, has already been doing in developing an advertising and awareness campaign about using the benefits at the market. The market has wireless equipment that allows patrons to swipe their food stamp benefits cards, or debit and credit cards, to purchase tokens that can be exchanged for food products with the market's vendors.
Susel said Ferry has been working on the advertising campaign since October, when city officials learned they would eventually receive the grant funding.
"Costs are eligible (for reimbursement) from that time forward," Susel said.
Susel said she felt seeking the grant was important because many of the city's impoverished residents may not know they can use Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or Women, Infants and Children (WIC) benefits to buy fresh fruit and vegetables at the market.
Also, Kent has not had a true supermarket in city limits since 2007, when Giant Eagle left University Plaza on Water Street, so residents have to travel to surrounding communities for a wide selection of fresh food if they do not shop at the farmers' market.
The city and Haymaker Farmers' Market will have about two years to allocate the grant funding toward educational programs before the funding period expires.
Susel said market officials will partner with local nonprofit agencies to reach out to the agencies' clients, and inform them food stamp benefits can be used at the farmers' market.
"There are a lot of families in Portage County that are receiving food stamp benefits that are not aware of the farmers' market, or that they can use their benefits at the market," Ferry said previously. "This is a great way to get the message out there."
During the market's winter schedule, which lasts until May 18, the market opens every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Junction 211 building at 211 Cherry St.
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