The Double Up program for food stamp users doubles purchases of local produce up to $20.
People lined up to buy fresh bread, corn, cookies, and summer squash outside the Lucas County Jobs and Family Services office Wednesday when the Toledo Farmers' Market hit the road for the first of three test markets outside its downtown home.
Running from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., the event attracted a steady stream of people snapping up locally grown produce -- many of them using food stamps.
"It's an excellent opportunity to reach out to those who are being served by that [Job and Family Services] office," said Dan Madigan, executive director of the Toledo Farmers' Market.
He said the pilot program, which so far is scheduled for only three days this summer, could be expanded if it is successful.
The new market location, county Commissioner Tina Skeldon Wozniak said, targets nearly 400 JFS jobs agency employees and clients and others in the neighborhood such as the nearby Boys & Girls Club and Toledo Area Ministries.
Rick McGranahan and Therisa Collins of West Toledo make selections during the Toledo Farmers' Market's two-hour session in a parking lot at the Lucas County Job and Family Services Agency. Ms. Collins said she liked the added extra value from the market's Double Up Food Bucks program.
"It's important that on any budget, you can eat healthy," she said.
South Toledo resident Dyandra Garrett, 46, bought a cornucopia of veggies, including cabbages, squash, and green onions.
"It's nice to bring it into the city for people who can't go downtown," she said of the new location.
As with the regular farmers' market on Erie Street, shoppers could use cash, credit, and food stamps to purchase goods. The amount of money that food-stamp shoppers have spent at the Toledo Farmers' Market has climbed steadily, from about $1,500 in 2007 to more than $50,000 in 2011.
That includes additional incentive funds to encourage low-income shoppers. The market offers a program to food-stamp consumers called Double Up Food Bucks. It matches shoppers' purchasing power up to $20 per market visit for local produce.
Liz Bergman, the JFS market's manager, said she was pleased with the turnout.
"The money is helping our local communities and those who need food," she said. "We'd love to do more of these."
Looking over some corn, West Toledo resident Therisa Collins, 48, said she appreciated the extra value from the Double Up program.
In Lucas County, more than 96,000 people -- about 22 percent of the county's population -- use food stamps as of June, according to data from the Lucas County Department of Job and Family Services.
More than $12 million worth of benefits were issued in the county last month, with a per-person average of $131.39.
Food stamps users may spend Double Up Food Bucks, above, when they buy local produce at the Farmers' Market. Its total food stamp purchases have climbed from $1,500 in 2007 to $50,000 in 2011.
Wednesday's event, Ms. Bergman said, featured three bakers and two farmers, along with smoked barbecue fare from Big C's BBQ Log Cabin, 316 N. Michigan St.
"There's good turnout for an event like this," said Chris Wonder, part owner of Se-Em-Da Farms and Gardens, which sold fresh corn, beets, golden zucchini, and summer squash from the Green Springs, Ohio, farm.
Nearby workers also appreciated the market's trial location. Theresa Thomas, who works for Lucas County Children Services, said she came to buy from her favorite bakery, the Sylvania-based Country Grain Bread Co. "They only use the good stuff," she said.
The two remaining markets in the Jobs and Family Services parking lot at 3210 Monroe St. are planned for Aug. 8 and Sept. 12.
Staff writer Kate Giammarise contributed to this report.
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