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Farmers’ Market Doubles Purchasing Power for Needy Families

Sustainable Food Center, which operates three farmers’ markets, is opening a fourth in Northeast Austin.
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Sustainable Food Center, which operates three farmers’ markets, is opening a fourth in Northeast Austin.

A new farmers’ market opens on Austin's eastside tomorrow. And aside from offering fresh fruits, vegetables, meats and cheeses, the market offers a special incentive for families needing food assistance.  

The market, located at the YMCA East Communities Branch will be run by the Sustainable Food Center (SFC). It’s the fourth farmer’s market the SFC operated in Austin.

But SFC community relations director Susan Leibrock notes that this center is different: shoppers using a SNAP, Lone Star or WIC benefits card will have their fruit and vegetable purchases matched, up to $10 each week, by the market.

“We are the first double-dollar incentive program in the state,” says Leibrock, noting the initiative is modeled after programs in California and Minnesota.

Leibrock says the new market is doubly needed in the area it serves, as its northeast Austin location is classified by the USDA as a “food desert.”

The USDA defines a food desert as a low-income census tract (one with a poverty rate of 20 percent or higher, or a median income below 80 percent of the area's median family income) that has “low access” to a supermarket (defined as one-third of the area residents more than a mile away from a large grocery store).

In simpler terms, Leibrock says “A food desert is an area where there is such limited access to fresh fruits and vegetables and fresh, unprocessed food. Our goal is to move the needle and really make a case for the redemption of fruits and vegetables for our most low-income clients.”

The SFC Farmer’s Market – East opens tomorrow at the YMCA East Communities Branch, 5315 Ed Bluestein. The market will be open every Tuesday from 10 1 p.m., and tomorrow’s opening is scheduled rain or shine. 

Wells has been a part of KUT News since 2012, when he was hired as the station's first online reporter. He's currently the social media host and producer for Texas Standard, KUT's flagship news program. In between those gigs, he served as online editor for KUT, covering news in Austin, Central Texas and beyond.
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