How to use WIC coupons, Alaska Quest SNAP cards or credit/debit cards at the 2019 Sitka Farmers Market

Have you ever come up a bit short of cash while shopping at the Sitka Farmers Market? Well, there are other payment methods you can use.

The Sitka Farmers Market was the first market in Southeast Alaska to accept the Alaska Quest EBT (electronic benefits transfer) cards for people on SNAP (formerly called food stamps). We also accept WIC farmers market coupons. In both cases, we match up to the first $20 for produce purchased with WIC or Quest benefits, thanks to a generous grant from the Sitka White Elephant Shop (aka, the White E). The Sitka Farmers Market is the only farmers market in Alaska authorized to match WIC farmers market coupons.

While many of our vendors have attachments on their cellphones that allow them to run credit or debit card transactions, sometimes it’s hard to get an Internet signal in the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall. That’s why we sell tokens (wooden nickels) at our Sitka Local Foods Network farm stand that people can use like cash with vendors at the market.

Here is a short primer on how to use each type of transaction:

WIC Farmers Market Coupons

WIC Farmers Market Coupons may only be used at the Sitka Local Foods Network farm stand, usually found outside in the parking lot by Baranof Island Housing Authority.

Present your coupons, and we will match the value up to $20 for produce (so $20 in WIC coupons gives you $40 in value). Our WIC matching program is for produce only and does not include our Alaska Grown products, due to WIC restrictions.

Alaska Quest Cards (SNAP Electronic Benefits Transfer)

Bring your Alaska Quest card to the Sitka Local Foods Network farm stand booth, found outside in the BIHA parking lot.

We swipe your card and give you wooden nickels (tokens) for the value you think you will spend on produce, Alaska Grown products, bread, jams or jellies, or other food that is not meant to be eaten at the market. You can use your wooden nickels at the SLFN farm stand, and with certain vendors that have signed agreements to accept SNAP wooden nickels (ask us which vendors have signed agreements when you swipe your card). The Sitka Local Foods Network will match up to $20 for produce purchased with SNAP benefits at the SLFN farm stand. While you can use your SNAP Alaska Quest card to purchase packaged Alaska Grown items at the SLFN farm stand, we do not have a match for those products (only the produce).

No cash change will be given for people using SNAP wooden nickels (available in $1 and $5 increments). If you have leftover wooden nickels at the end of the market, take them back to the SLFN farm stand that same day and we will credit them back to your SNAP account. This credit must be done at the same market, and can not be held until the next market.

Credit/Debit Cards

While some of our vendors can run credit/debit cards at their booths, there are many that can’t. If you are low in cash and want to run your credit/debit card to buy something at the market, stop by the Sitka Local Foods Network farm stand and we will run your credit/debit card and give you wooden nickels in $5 or $10 increments.

You can then spend your credit/debit card wooden nickels like cash with many of the vendors at the market (most booths will have a sign saying they accept credit/debit card wooden nickels). Credit/debit card tokens may be used for food and non-food items, and customers may receive cash as change.

Please note, these wooden nickels look similar to the SNAP wooden nickels, but the credit/debit card wooden nickels are allowed to have cash as change.

How to use WIC coupons, Alaska Quest SNAP cards or credit/debit cards at the Sitka Farmers Market

Have you ever come up a bit short of cash while shopping at the Sitka Farmers Market? Well, there are other methods to use.

The Sitka Farmers Market was the first market in Southeast Alaska to accept the Alaska Quest EBT (electronic benefits transfer) cards for people on SNAP (formerly called food stamps). We also accept WIC farmers market coupons. In both cases, we match up to the first $20 for produce (on WIC) or produce and other SNAP-eligible foods (on Quest).

While many of our vendors have attachments on their cellphones that allow them to run credit or debit card transactions, sometimes it’s hard to get an Internet signal in the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall. We sell tokens (wooden nickels) at our Sitka Local Foods Network swag booth, next to our farm stand outside, that people can use like cash with vendors at the market.

Here is a short primer on how to use each type of transaction:

WIC Farmers Market Coupons

WIC Farmers Market Coupons may only be used at the Sitka Local Foods Network farm stand, found outside in the parking lot.

Present your coupons, and we will match the value up to $20 for produce (so $20 in WIC coupons gives you $40 in value). Our WIC matching program is for produce only and does not include our Alaska Grown products, due to WIC restrictions

Alaska Quest Cards (SNAP Electronic Benefits Transfer)

Bring your Alaska Quest card to the Sitka Local Foods Network swag booth, found outside in the parking lot next to the SLFN farm stand booth.

We swipe your card and give you wooden nickels (tokens) for the value you think you will spend on produce, Alaska Grown products, bread, jams or jellies, or other food that is not meant to be eaten at the market. You can use your wooden nickels at the SLFN farm stand booth, and with certain vendors that have signed agreements to accept SNAP wooden nickels (ask us which vendors have signed agreements when you swipe your card). We will match up to $20 in wooden nickels for produce at the SLFN farm stand.

No cash change will be given for people using SNAP wooden nickels (available in $1 and $5 increments). If you have leftover wooden nickels at the end of the market, take them back to the SLFN swag booth and we will credit them back to your SNAP account. This credit must be done at the same market.

Credit/Debit Cards

While some of our vendors can run credit/debit cards at their booths, there are many that can’t. If you are low in cash and want to run your credit/debit card to buy something at the market, stop by the Sitka Local Foods Network swag booth and we will run your credit/debit card and give you wooden nickels in $5 or $10 increments.

You can then spend your credit/debit card wooden nickels like cash with many of the vendors at the market (most booths will have a sign saying they accept credit/debit card wooden nickels). Credit/debit card tokens may be used for food and non-food items, and customers may receive cash as change.

• Sitka Farmers Market prepares for eighth summer of fresh, local veggies

PHOTO COURTESY OF SITKA LOCAL FOODS NETWORK Sitka Local Foods Network board members and supporters pose at the St. Peter's Fellowship Farm communal garden on Monday. St. Peter's Fellowship Farm supplies most of the local produce sold at the Sitka Farmers Markets during the summer. The first Sitka Farmers Market of the season is from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 4, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall, 235 Katlian St. The other five Sitka Farmers Market dates are July 18, Aug. 1, Aug. 15, Aug. 29, and Sept. 12. Pictured are, front row from left, Michelle Putz, Muriel Sadleir-Hart, Lisa Sadleir-Hart, and Kathy Jones. Back row, Matthew Jackson, Jonathan Adler, Peter Gorman, Jud Kirkness, Brandie Cheatham, Mary Therese Thomson, and Laura Schmidt.

PHOTO COURTESY OF SITKA LOCAL FOODS NETWORK
Sitka Local Foods Network board members and supporters pose at the St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden on Monday. St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm supplies most of the local produce sold at the Sitka Farmers Markets during the summer. The first Sitka Farmers Market of the season is from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 4, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall, 235 Katlian St. The other five Sitka Farmers Market dates are July 18, Aug. 1, Aug. 15, Aug. 29, and Sept. 12. Pictured are, front row from left, Michelle Putz, Muriel Sadleir-Hart, Lisa Sadleir-Hart, and Kathy Jones. Back row, Matthew Jackson, Jonathan Adler, Peter Gorman, Jud Kirkness, Brandie Cheatham, Mary Therese Thomson, and Laura Schmidt.

Sitka Local Foods Network uses St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm and Sitka Farmers Market to improve food security in Sitka

During the stormy months of winter, most people in Sitka aren’t thinking about their gardens. But that’s when St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm Lead Gardener Laura Schmidt is trying to figure out which vegetables to plant in which garden bed, starting seeds, and (if the soil isn’t frozen) amending the soil with seaweed and other nutrients to get an early start on the garden.

As the lead gardener since 2011, a contract position with the Sitka Local Foods Network, Schmidt is responsible for growing most of the fresh, local vegetables sold during the Sitka Farmers Markets each summer. She oversees food production at the St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden, located behind St. Peter’s By The Sea Episcopal Church, and at an extension garden located at Pat Arvin’s house.

Schmidt and her volunteer gardeners have about 3,000 square feet in production. Last year they grew about 300 pounds of rhubarb and 100 pounds of kale. “That’s a lot of kale,” Schmidt said. Besides kale and rhubarb, they also grow garlic, onions, potatoes, kohlrabi, cabbage, broccoli, fava beans, spinach, carrots, beets, nasturtiums, zucchini, cucumbers, and more.

“It’s fun to have it all come together. It’s nice to see it turn into food,” Schmidt said. “It’s a fun puzzle because every year is different, and how do we make it more productive.”

2015SitkaFarmersMarketFlierSitka residents will have a chance to celebrate their independence from store-bought and overly processed food at the first Sitka Farmers Market of the summer, which takes place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 4, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall. The other five markets will be on July 18, Aug. 1, Aug. 15, Aug. 29, and Sept. 12.

“It’s very important. People come for the produce. It’s the prime attraction,” Sitka Farmers Market Manager Debe Brincefield said. “We have jams and jellies, bread, fish, and arts and crafts, but people bring their produce bags and are happy to fill them.”

The Sitka Farmers Market and St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm are two of the main projects of the Sitka Local Foods Network, and both projects came out of the second Sitka Health Summit, which took place in April 2008. The first garden beds were built and planted at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm by May 2008, and food grown at St. Peter’s was available for sale at the first Sitka Farmers Market in August 2008. Since then, both projects have been a growing concern.

These two projects came about because many in Sitka were concerned about food security, especially as the country entered a major recession in 2008. It’s estimated about 90-95 percent of the food eaten in Alaska is shipped here from the Lower 48 or foreign countries, and artificially cheap transportation made it easier for people to buy their food from the store than to grow or harvest it themselves, which was the norm in Sitka until the 1950s and 1960s. With so little food being grown locally, Sitka residents worried what might happen if fuel prices went up or if we had a natural disaster that destroyed our ports and/or airport.

There also were worries about how much longer residents could afford store-bought food, especially as Sitka food prices went up 43.6 percent from September 2003 to 2011, according to the Sitka Community Food Assessment Indicators Report (a 2012 Sitka Health Summit project). The report also noted that 1,410 Sitka residents participated in the food stamp program in 2013, about one-sixth of Sitka’s population of about 9,000. Sitka residents redeemed $1,645,702 in food stamp dollars in 2012, an increase of $201,000 from 2011.

The Sitka Farmers Market and St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm are two key elements for improving food security in Sitka, with education about gardening and food preservation being another key element.

“It helps people to connect the food to the market, and hopefully realize the Sitka Local Foods Network is the umbrella organization,” Sitka Local Foods Network Board President Lisa Sadleir-Hart said. “We knew if we had a market, we had to have food to sell. We have a lead gardener in Laura who has grown and expanded the St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm and our extension garden at Pat Arvin’s every year. And we have generous people who donate produce from their gardens for us to sell, such as Jud Kirkness, Linda Wilson and my family.”

AK 2015 FMNP Poster SLFNTo help families struggling with food security, the Sitka Farmers Market became the first farmers market in Southeast Alaska to accept SNAP (food stamps) and WIC nutrition benefits, including the Alaska Quest electronic benefits transfer cards used for SNAP. The Sitka Farmers Market also matches dollars spent on SNAP-approved foods (produce, fish, baked goods, barley products, etc.), which allows Alaska Quest card users to double their purchase by as much as $20 per person per market. That means a family of four with SNAP benefits can be matched up to $80. This year, the Sitka Farmers Market will partner with the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) on a new program where SEARHC beneficiaries with chronic disease are prescribed vouchers for fruits and vegetables.

And the growing is spreading.

“As I was taking a walk around town the other day, I identified three new gardens,” Sadleir-Hart said. “They also have a new garden at the Pioneer Home where they’re growing food.”

For more information about the Sitka Local Foods Network, Sitka Farmers Market and St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, go to http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org/ or email sitkalocalfoodsnetwork@gmail.com. To learn about being a vendor at the Sitka Farmers Market, contact Debe Brincefield at sitkafarmersmarket@gmail.com or call 738-8683.

(Editor’s note: The story above appeared in the Weekender section of the July 2, 2015, edition of the Daily Sitka Sentinel. It was written by Sitka Local Foods Network board member/communications director Charles Bingham.)

• Sitka Local Foods Network to host six Sitka Farmers Market events in 2015

2015SitkaFarmersMarketFlier

Celebrate your independence from store-bought and factory-processed food this year by joining the Sitka Local Foods Network as it hosts the eighth summer of Sitka Farmers Markets in 2015. There will be six markets this year, starting on July 4 and taking place on alternate Saturdays through Sept. 12. The Sitka Farmers Markets give Sitka residents a chance to buy and sell locally produced food and crafts.

The Sitka Farmers Markets take place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 4, July 18, Aug. 1, Aug. 15, Aug. 29, and Sept. 12 at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall (235 Katlian St.). The markets feature local seafood (fresh, frozen, and cooked, ready to eat), locally grown and harvested fruits and vegetables, baked goods, locally made jams and jellies, live entertainment and music, local arts and crafts, and a variety of other items gathered or made in Sitka. We emphasize local products and lots of fun. We are the first farmers market in Southeast Alaska to accept WIC coupons and Alaska Quest EBT for SNAP (food stamp) users. Debe Brincefield is the Sitka Farmers Market manager, with Francis Wegman-Lawless serving as assistant manager.

“The Sitka Farmers Market is a great way to connect with community members and support local entrepreneurs,” Sitka Local Foods Network Board President Lisa Sadleir-Hart said. “Spending your dollars locally has a multiplying effect and helps your neighbors. We also encourage Sitkans to join the $5 Per Week Alaska Grown Challenge and support your local producers each week with $5. Dollars spent locally multiply in our community to the tune of about $3 for each dollar spent. So you get great local food and support your neighbors by spending locally.”

The Sitka Farmers Market started as a community wellness project that came out of a health priority planning meeting at the 2008 Sitka Health Summit. The markets are sponsored by the Sitka Local Foods Network, Alaska Native Brotherhood Camp No. 1, Alaska Native Sisterhood Camp No. 4, Baranof Island Housing Authority, the Alaska Farmers Market Association, the Alaska Division of Public Health Cancer Control Program, and the SEARHC Health Promotion and Diabetes Prevention programs.

“As with the past three seasons, we invite Sitkans who participate in food stamps to use their QUEST card at the market and we will match up to $20 per market for each food stamp participant in a household until resources are exhausted,” Sadleir-Hart said. “So for a family of four that could mean up to $80 extra dollars to shop at each market. Additionally, the St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm stand will be working with the SEARHC Health Promotion program to debut a new fruit and vegetable prescription program at the market. SEARHC’s nutritionist will provide eligible beneficiaries with $5 vouchers to use at the farm stand to access local, fresh produce. The farm stand also will accept WIC farmers market and fruits and vegetable vouchers (FVV).”

To learn more about the market and how to be a vendor, contact Sitka Farmers Market Manager Debe Brincefield at 738-8683 or by e-mail sitkafarmersmarket@gmail.com. Vendor rules, registration forms and other info for potential vendors can be found on the Documents page at http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org/.

• Sitka Local Foods Network to host six Sitka Farmers Markets in 2014

The Sitka Local Foods Network will host its seventh summer of Sitka Farmers Markets this year. The first of the six markets is from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, June 28, at Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall (235 Katlian St.), with the other markets on July 12, July 26, Aug. 9, Aug. 23, and Sept. 6. From left are Sitka Local Foods Network board members Charles Bingham, Maybelle Filler and Michelle Putz, Sitka Farmers Market co-managers Ellexis Howey and Debe Brincefield, vendors Linda Wilson and Pat Hanson, and helper D.J. Brincefield. (Daily Sitka Sentinel Photo by James Poulson).

The Sitka Local Foods Network will host its seventh summer of Sitka Farmers Markets this year. The first of the six markets is from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, June 28, at Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall (235 Katlian St.), with the other markets on July 12, July 26, Aug. 9, Aug. 23, and Sept. 6. From left are Sitka Local Foods Network board members Charles Bingham, Maybelle Filler and Michelle Putz, Sitka Farmers Market co-managers Ellexis Howey and Debe Brincefield, vendors Linda Wilson and Pat Hanson, and helper D.J. Brincefield. (Daily Sitka Sentinel Photo by James Poulson).

SitkaFarmersMarketSignThe Sitka Local Foods Network will host its seventh summer of Sitka Farmers Markets with six markets this year starting on June 28 and taking place on alternate Saturdays through Sept. 6. The Sitka Farmers Markets give Sitka residents a chance to buy and sell locally produced food and crafts.

The Sitka Farmers Markets take place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, June 28, July 12, July 26, Aug. 9, Aug. 23, and Sept. 6 at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall (235 Katlian St.). The markets feature local seafood (fresh, frozen, and cooked, ready to eat), locally grown and harvested fruits and vegetables, baked goods, locally made jams and jellies, live entertainment and music, local arts and crafts, and a variety of other items gathered or made in Sitka. We emphasize local products and lots of fun. We were the first farmers market in Southeast Alaska to accept WIC coupons and Alaska Quest EBT for SNAP (food stamp) users. We also plan scheduled transportation from Sitka Tours for the last five markets (details coming soon), and don’t forget to support the Sitka Farmers Market in the I Love My Farmers Market Celebration (click logo) at http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org/.

“The Sitka Farmers Market is a great way to connect with community members and support local entrepreneurs,” Sitka Local Foods Network Board President Lisa Sadleir-Hart said. “Circulating your dollars locally also has a multiplying effect and helps your neighbors.”

2014 Quest Flyer SitkaThe Sitka Farmers Market started as a community wellness project that came out of a health priority planning meeting at the 2008 Sitka Health Summit. The markets are sponsored by the Sitka Local Foods Network, Alaska Native Brotherhood Camp No. 1, Alaska Native Sisterhood Camp No. 4, Baranof Island Housing Authority, the Alaska Farmers Market Association, the Alaska Division of Public Health Cancer Control Program, and the SEARHC Health Promotion and Diabetes Prevention programs.

“We are excited to have Ellexis Howey and Debe Brincefield working as a team as our new market co-managers,” Sadleir-Hart said. “Ellexis and Debe bring loads of enthusiasm and some new ideas to the market, and they are focused on creating a sustainable market that can be in Sitka for the duration. As always, the market will be a place to support the growing local food movement in Sitka and learn more about how to eat more sustainably.”

Vendor fees are $30 for a 6-foot table, $40 for an 8-foot table and $20 for a 4-foot table. Vendors with their own tents pay $5 per foot. As always, we offer cost incentives for vendors growing locally produced food. The fees will help us cover the costs of renting ANB Founders Hall and its kitchen, hiring musicians and other expenses. To learn more about being a vendor or to sign up for a table, contact Sitka Farmers Market Co-Managers, Ellexis Howey and Debe Brincefield at 738-8683 or by e-mail sitkafarmersmarket@gmail.com. Vendor rules, registration forms and other info for potential vendors can be found on the Documents page at http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org/.

• KCAW-Raven Radio reports on how Sitka residents can double down on EBT benefits at the Sitka Farmers Market

Mira Vale staffs the EBT Quest Card table at the Aug. 3, 2013, Sitka Farmers Market

Mira Vale staffs the Alaska Quest Card/EBT benefits table at the Aug. 3, 2013, Sitka Farmers Market

The Friday, Aug. 9, 2013, newscast on KCAW-Raven Radio featured a story about how Sitka residents on food stamps can double their Alaska Quest Card/EBT benefits at the Sitka Farmers Market.

The Alaska Quest Card is an EBT, or Electronic Benefits Transfer, program that helps people on food stamps pay for food at local grocery stores. Their monthly EBT benefits are loaded onto their Alaska Quest Card, and an amount is deducted from the card each time they buy food.

Starting last year, the Sitka Farmers Market joined several Alaska farmers markets in accepting Alaska Quest Cards/EBT benefits, and this year the number of markets accepting EBT has grown to 11 markets in Alaska. Since many farmers market vendors aren’t set up to accept charge cards, people on EBT benefits can use their cards to buy tokens (wooden nickels) at a booth at the Sitka Farmers Market, and they then can use the tokens to purchase fresh food from participating vendors.

The Alaska Quest Card/EBT booth also sells a second type of token that people not on EBT benefits can use to purchase food and other items (including arts and crafts) from participating vendors. This second token allows vendors who aren’t set up for credit/debit cards to still make sales.

Kerry MacLane uses a token to purchase produce from Sitka Farmers Market vendor Keith Nyitray during the Aug. 3, 2013, Sitka Farmers Market.

Kerry MacLane uses a token to purchase produce from Sitka Farmers Market vendor Keith Nyitray during the Aug. 3, 2013, Sitka Farmers Market.

The KCAW story focused on Sitka resident Stacie Joseph, who uses EBT benefits to help pay for her food for her four kids while she attends school. Because of a grant from the state, various Alaska farmers markets are able to provide double the benefits for people using EBT benefits. For example, if someone wants to use $20 of their EBT benefits, they’ll receive $40 worth of tokens. Joseph said the doubled benefits mean that in addition to providing healthy fresh produce for her family, she can have more money available to use on her health management classes at the University of Alaska Southeast-Sitka Campus, helping her improve her earning potential.

“This program improves access to fresh, local foods to community members who are struggling financially.  Additionally, the program helps increase understanding of food insecurity issues in our community and how produce and other food vendors can be part of the solution,” said Lisa Sadlier-Hart, president of the Sitka Local Foods Network board of directors, which hosts the Sitka Farmers Markets.