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. Car bomb kills 13, injures 24 in Baghdad; Islamic State claims responsibility


    BAGHDAD — A car bomb exploded outside a popular ice cream shop in central Baghdad just after midnight today, killing 13 people and wounding 24, hospital and police officials said.

  2. Leaping shark floors angler in Australia


    In The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway's protagonist battles for three days to pull in his prized catch. For Terry Selwood, it came a little more suddenly.

    A 9-foot shark lies on the deck of a fishing boat at Evans Head, Australia on Sunday. Fisherman Terry Selwood said he was left with a badly bruised and bleeding right arm where the shark struck him with a fin as it landed on him on the deck. [Lance Fountain via AP]
  3. Rays rally twice to beat Rangers (w/video)

    The Heater

    ARLINGTON, Texas — Starting Erasmo Ramirez on Monday after he closed out Sunday's marathon win turned out, despite the Rays' best intentions and rigid insistence, to be a bad idea as he gave up four runs without getting through three innings.

    Erasmo Ramirez, starting a day after closing a 15-inning marathon, struggles against the Rangers and comes out after throwing 43 pitches in 21/3 innings.
  4. Britain investigating missed signals over Manchester bomber


    LONDON — Britain's domestic intelligence agency, MI5, is investigating its response to warnings from the public about the threat posed by Salman Abedi, the suicide bomber who killed 22 people and wounded dozens more in an attack at a crowded Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, last week.

    People gather Monday at St. Ann’s Square in Manchester, England, to view tributes to victims of the suicide bombing that killed 22 on May 22 as a concert by Ariana Grande was concluding.
  5. Trump condemns killing of pair who tried to stop racist rant


    The mayor of Portland, Ore., on Monday urged U.S. officials and organizers to cancel a "Trump Free Speech Rally" and other similar events, saying they are inappropriate and could be dangerous after two men were stabbed to death on a train as they tried to help a pair of young women targeted by an anti-Muslim tirade.

    Coco Douglas, 8, leaves a handmade sign and rocks she painted at a memorial in Portland, Ore., on Saturday for two bystanders who were stabbed to death Friday while trying to stop a man who was yelling anti-Muslim slurs and acting aggressively toward two young women. From left are Coco's brother, Desmond Douglas; her father, Christopher Douglas; and her stepmother, Angel Sauls. [Associated Press]