Food insecurity is a major issue during these challenging times - and putting healthy food on the table is even more difficult for many families who receive food assistance. At the Toledo Farmers' Market, where color is plentiful, handing over some "green" is no longer the only way you can pay for your groceries.
Produce Perks is a program that aims to help Americans struggling with poverty to eat more fruits and vegetables.
The program is available every weekend and effectively doubles the purchasing power of families and individuals receiving SNAP benefits.
Customers can show the Produce Perks participating vendor the amount they have on their EBT card and that amount will be matched dollar for dollar up to $25 for folks to spend on fresh produce.
"I didn't even know you can use EBT here. Now that I know that I'm definitely going to get fresh vegetables and fruits for my family,” said Merica Coffey a Toledo Farmers' Market shopper. “Not only that but they match what you spend here so you get twice as much food and money-wise so you're not losing out any type away."
Vendors stress the benefits to farmers as well.
"It's a win, win, win! Supporting healthy food for low-income families, supporting the local food economy, as well as the farmers and vendors at our community farmers market,” said Tevis Foreman, a vendor for Produce Perks Midwest.
Buckeye Health Plan was also at the market on Saturday to give an extra 10-dollar voucher to members, to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables.
"In Lucas County, almost 16% are food insecure. And in the state of Ohio, roughly 10% don't get the proper amount of fruits and 7% don't get the proper amount of vegetables. So this is a way for us to help folks get some fruit and vegetables,” said Mike Hibbard, Community Relations for Buckeye Health Plan.
Buckeye Health Plan started the Buckeye Fresh event three years ago in Lucas County. Since then it grew into a statewide event to help fight hunger.
"The first probably was three years ago here at this market and it went very well. We had almost 300 but I members come down and receive their vouchers and so from there it spread,” said Hibbard.
It's a program that organizers hope to continue. The Produce Perks program is available every weekend at the market and Buckeye Health Plan will be back in town on September 26th.