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‘Fresh Savings’ now available for SNAP participants

From sticking fliers into children’s backpacks to traveling across the state, Brookhaven resident Erin Smith is doing her best to share information about the AARP Foundation’s Fresh Savings program.

Smith, a member of the Brookhaven School Board, is also the program manager for the Fresh Savings program, a healthy-food incentive funded by a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture and co-sponsored by United Healthcare.

The goal of the program is to help all SNAP participants, regardless of age, to increase purchases of fruits and vegetables. 

The Fresh Savings program allows SNAP beneficiaries to spend up to $20 at participating farmers markets and produce retailers buying fresh fruits and vegetables with their SNAP card and receive the equivalent amount in “fresh savings” to spend on fresh produce and other items at future visits. 

Brookway Market Basket in Brookhaven is the only local merchant currently in the Fresh Savings Program.

Tokens of S1, S5 and S10 can be exchanged for fresh produce and other fresh foods at Brookway.

The tokens won’t expire at the market as long as the Fresh Savings program is still running at the store, which is at least until 2018, Smith said.

Along with fresh fruits and vegetables, eligible SNAP foods like breads, meats, poultry and dairy are also available through the program. A full list can be found on the USDA website.

“I see a need for the people of Lincoln County that’s less fortunate than others,” Brookway Market Basket owner Wayne Wallace said. “This will subsidize their income and help them get through the month”

Wallace said he’s already seen the benefits of the program since he started in March. He’s encouraged at the feedback he’s received from customers. 

Smith enjoys helping Mississippians benefit from the program.

“I find great pleasure in being a part of the solution to help those who need it most to take charge of their own well-being by providing them with access to healthy, affordable and nutritious foods,” Smith said. “This initiative is so important because it is an opportunity to address the daily and often invisible problem of hunger that millions of our neighbors face by connecting them to accessible healthy, fresh and affordable food.”

Smith will be training local Department of Human Services employees about the Fresh Savings program, and every case manager will have the information to pass along to SNAP participants.

The Fresh Savings program is also available at Kroger grocery stores in Jackson and Pearl.

Lincoln County is one of 17 counties ­— including Pike, Rankin, Hinds, Warren, Bolivar, Clarke, Clay, Coahoma, DeSoto, Forrest, Harrison, Jackson, Jones, Lauderdale, Neshoba and Washington — that are part of the Fresh Savings program.

“While Fresh Savings participants will be able to improve their diets and overall health, the local economy will all feel the effects of increased purchases of fresh fruits and vegetables,” Smith said.