Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Eating fresh? It's now a SNAP for all at Sweetwater Sunday market


The farm-to-table movement — typically fare for the affluent and for trendy restaurants — is expanding to reach those with limited incomes. • Starting Sunday, food stamps can be used to buy local, organic produce at the Sweetwater Organic Community Farm Sunday Market, with a sweetened deal. Shoppers enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program can use up to $10 in SNAP benefits to double the value in produce, thanks to two grants. • That equates to as much as $20 worth of produce, said Brian Smiley, the farm's operational manager. It includes kale, lettuce, carrots, choy, chard, dill and cabbage, harvested just after sunrise and available at that day's market, from noon to 4 p.m.

SNAP benefits can also be used for eligible foods including fresh bread, locally roasted coffee and tomato plants at some of the more than 20 other vendors at the market.

"It's really exciting for us to broaden our base and reach into the community we haven't served," said Andrea Harms, market manager at Sweetwater Farm.

She hopes the incentive will draw neighbors to the 6-acre urban farm in Town 'N Country.

Currently, produce from the nonprofit community farm goes to its members, who mostly do not live nearby, to health food store Rollin' Oats Market & Cafe and to the Refinery, a Seminole Heights restaurant.

At the market, farm managers will set up a table with a pay station to process the debitlike electronic cards. The station cost $1,200 and was sponsored by a federal grant, along with two years of wireless service to cover the 15-cent charge for each swipe.

Another grant funds the Fresh Access Bucks Program, which matches the SNAP benefits for purchases of produce. This grant, from the Florida Department of Agriculture, was launched in May 2013 by the nonprofit Florida Certified Organic Growers and Consumers, based in Gainesville.

The program had processed $69,000 in SNAP benefits through markets by December. More than 100 farmers have sold produce through the program.

"We have 11 markets running now," said Carmen Franz, community food project coordinator for Florida Certified Organic Growers and Consumers. "We plan to have 20 by the end of the year."

The program is operating at the St. Petersburg Saturday Morning Market. It will soon be in place at the Sulphur Springs Farmers Market and the Suncoast Co-op Farmers Market in Pasco County.

The goal is to promote organic and sustainable agriculture and to change nutritional habits for those receiving SNAP — more than 47 million Americans, about 3.5 million of them Floridians, according to federal records.

Everybody wins — farmers and the community, Franz said.

Promoting fresh produce may be the other side of the coin of a 2012 Florida proposal by Sen. Ronda Storms to ban buying junk food with food stamps.

Franz said the matching grant expires in March 2015, but she hopes that a Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive program that passed within the 2014 farm bill will keep SNAP beneficiaries coming to markets.

Elisabeth Parker can be reached at or (813) 226-3431.

. if you go

Chew on this

The Sweetwater market is open from noon to 4 p.m. Sundays, November to May, at 6942 W Comanche Ave., Tampa. For information about SNAP benefits, including how to apply, go to

Eating fresh? It's now a SNAP for all at Sweetwater Sunday market 02/28/14 [Last modified: Friday, February 28, 2014 1:40pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Despite Hurricane Irma, Hillsborough remains on pace to unlock hotel tax that could pay for Rays ballpark


    TAMPA — Despite the threat of a catastrophic storm, it was business as usual at many Hillsborough County hotels in the days before Hurricane Irma bore down on the Tampa Bay region.

    The Grand Hyatt near TIA closed during Hurricane Irma, but many other Hillsborough hotels were open and saw an influx.
  2. Pinellas votes 7-0 to help sue Legislature over new law favoring charter schools


    LARGO — They said they had no choice but to do it. They said they would rather reach a compromise.

    Gov. Rick Scott, right, kicks off the 2017 legislative session on March 7 in Tallahassee. Scott later signed a massive education bill that is being challenged by several school districts. On Tuesday, Pinellas became one of them. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
  3. Deputies find 24 dogs, 2 birds, 2 cats, 1 child in Hernando home

    Public Safety

    SPRING HILL —A woman was arrested Monday on charges of animal cruelty after deputies said they found injured animals at her Spring Hill home.

    Jennie Card, 44, was arrested on two counts of animal cruelty after deputies said they found her injured animals at her Spring Hill residence.[Courtesy of Hernando County Sheriff's Office]
  4. New Graham-Cassidy health care plan stumbles under opposition from governors


    WASHINGTON — The suddenly resurgent Republican effort to undo the Affordable Care Act was dealt a blow on Tuesday when a bipartisan group of governors came out against a proposal gaining steam in the Senate.

    Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., joined by, from left, Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., speaks to reporters as he pushes a last-ditch effort to uproot former President Barack Obama's health care law, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017. To win, 50 of the 52 GOP senators must back it -- a margin they failed to reach when the chamber rejected the effort in July. [/J. Scott Applewhite | Associated Press]
  5. Joe Maddon on being back at Trop, Cash, a new stadium


    More to come later, but a couple of quick early highlights from former Rays manager Joe Maddon's return to the Trop with the Cubs:

    Joe Maddon, right, speaks with Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey before Tuesday's game at Tropicana Field.