CHARLOTTE — Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start of summer — and more local farmers markets will begin to pop up, like the one Jan Johnson oversees in uptown Charlotte.
“We have lots of wonderful fresh foods,” she told Channel 9.
But since nearly 15% of Mecklenburg County residents don’t know where their next meal will come from, the county’s food security coordinator has been working hard the past two years to make fresh produce is more accessible.
“It’s about allowing the community to participate in their local food system and their local food economy,” said Abby Wyatt with Mecklenburg County’s Health Department.
Thanks to funding from Blue Cross Blue Shield, they created the “You SNAP, We Match” program, which allows people who use EBT/SNAP cards to receive a dollar-for-dollar match on SNAP items like fruits, veggies and bread.
“Someone can shop at the farmers market for the freshest food in town and basically shop for half-price because we’re doubling their funds,” said Johnson.
It’s an important mission because the market’s central uptown location boarders so many vulnerable neighborhoods.
“Food access is still a big issue in Charlotte, as well as transportation,” Johnson explained. “So, not only affordability, but getting here.”
The program helps people who wouldn’t normally have access to that kind of fresh food, but it also supports local vendors, like Mary Jane Wilson of Thoughtful Baking Company, who makes ready-to-bake pot-pies and participates in the program.
“Feeding people is my passion, so to be able to do that here and be part of this community, I’m very grateful for that and excited for it to continue,” she said.
The program is already used at more than a dozen farmers markets across the county, with more planned in the next few months.
The uptown farmers market is planning to launch a shuttle service so they can transport people who live in food deserts, defined as places where there’s not a grocery store within a one mile distance.
(WATCH: Farmers market works to offer fresh foods to everyone)
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