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Identity & Community

As Farmers Markets Sprout Up, So Does Effort to Include Food Stamps

Farmers markets are opening all over the region with fresh, wholesome and affordable produce, and there are efforts to make sure everyone is able to share in the bounty.  

Ken Regal, Executive Director of Just Harvest, said the 160,000 residents of Allegheny County on Food Stamps have often been unable to use them at farmers markets because vendors usually only accept cash. 

This year, however, Just Harvest will staff kiosks at two Citiparks farmers markets where Food Stamps, as well as commercial debit and credit cards, can be used to buy tokens.  

"It's a win for farmers, who are able to sell to the one in seven people in our community who do need to rely on Food Stamps," Regal said, "and it's a win for the broader community as well because when places like farmers markets are thriving, popular and democratic. We all benefit from better quality of life, and the neighborhood business districts where the markets are located benefit."  

Regal hopes the service will expand to other markets, but for now, it is available in East Liberty, 5800 Penn Circle West, which is open Mondays from 3:30 pm. to 7:30 p.m. and on Fridays during the same hours on the North Side, across from Allegheny General Hospital at East Ohio Street and Cedar Avenue.

Additionally, on June 19, the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank will continue its Farm Stand Project, which delivers produce from local farmers to 12 locations in low-income neighborhoods, all of which accept public benefits.

A guide to Pittsburgh-region farmers markets can be found via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.