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.

White E awards Sitka Local Foods Network 2019 grant to match SNAP/WIC produce sales

Charles Bingham of the Sitka Local Foods Network, left, and Donna Donohoe and Jessica Christianson of Friends of Sitka Circus Arts, right, pose with White Elephant Shop (White E) volunteer Cheryl Call, second from left, after receiving 2019 grant checks from the White E.

The Sitka White Elephant Shop (aka, the White E thrift shop) awarded the Sitka Local Foods Network with a $1,500 grant during its 2019 grant cycle. In 2018, the White E awarded the Sitka Local Foods Network $1,000.

The grant will be used to provide matching funds for SNAP and WIC beneficiaries who purchase produce at the Sitka Farmers Market and other events where the SLFN sells produce, such as at the Running of the Boots. The Sitka Local Foods Network began providing SNAP matching dollars for the first $20 of produce purchases at the markets a few years ago when there was a state grant, but in 2017 those grant funds ran out and we used our Sitka Local Foods Network general fund to match the produce purchases. We also started matching the $5 WIC farmers market produce coupons in 2017, using our general fund. We grow most of the produce at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden, and our satellite gardens around town.

“Our mission is to increase the amount of locally produced and harvested food in the diets of Southeast Alaskans, but buying local produce can be difficult for people on food assistance programs,” Sitka Local Foods Network board president Charles Bingham said. “Our matching funds help get more healthy local produce into the diets of lower-income residents of Sitka. A lot of people don’t realize how much income inequality there is in Sitka, and according to the Sitka Community Food Assessment Indicators Report released in 2014, there were 1,410 people and 766 families receiving SNAP benefits in Sitka during 2013. That’s about one out of six Sitka residents who need extra access to this healthy local produce.”

The White E made several grants during the 2019 grant cycle, but a complete list wasn’t available. The Sitka Local Foods Network thanks the White E for its support.

White E awards Sitka Local Foods Network grant to match SNAP/WIC produce sales

Sitka White Elephant Shop (aka, the White E) volunteer Samantha Skultka, center, presents grant checks on Friday, Feb. 16, 2018, to Sitka Historical Society executive director Hal Spackman, left, and Sitka Local Foods Network board president Charles Bingham. (Photo by Susan Brown)

The Sitka White Elephant Shop (aka, the White E) awarded the Sitka Local Foods Network with a $1,000 grant during its 2018 grant cycle.

The grant will be used to provide matching funds for SNAP and WIC beneficiaries who purchase produce at the Sitka Farmers Market and other events where the SLFN sells produce, such as at the Running of the Boots or at our table on Chelan Produce weeks. The Sitka Local Foods Network began providing SNAP matching dollars for the first $20 of produce purchases at the markets a few years ago when there was a state grant, but last year those grant funds ran out and we used our general fund to match the produce purchases. We also started matching the $5 WIC farmers market produce coupons last year, using our general fund. We grow most of the produce at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden, and our satellite gardens around town. St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm is part of the USDA’s The People’s Garden program.

“Our mission is to increase the amount of locally produced and harvested food in the diets of Southeast Alaskans, but buying local produce can be difficult for people on food assistance programs,” Sitka Local Foods Network board president Charles Bingham said. “Our matching funds help get more healthy local produce into the diets of lower-income residents of Sitka. A lot of people don’t realize how much income inequality there is in Sitka, and according to the Sitka Community Food Assessment Indicators Report released in 2014, there were 1,410 people and 766 families receiving SNAP benefits in Sitka during 2013. That’s about one out of six Sitka residents who need extra access to this healthy local produce.”

The White E made several grants during the 2018 grant cycle, but a complete list wasn’t available. The Sitka Local Foods Network thanks the White E for its support.

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.

Second Annual Food Security Awareness Week includes free showing of ‘Just Eat It’ movie

Food Security Week Flyer(FINAL)

11x17-Just-EatIt-posterThe Second Annual Food Security Awareness Week is March 21-25, and Sitka is joining other Alaska communities to provide a free showing of the movie, “Just Eat It,” that week to discuss the need to reduce food waste in Alaska.

The movie will be shown at 7 p.m. on Thursday, March 24, at the Sitka Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Hall (408 Marine Street, parking off Spruce Street). The Sitka Local Foods Network is coordinating the showing of the movie in Sitka. The movie also is being shown in Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau during the week.

In Alaska, roughly one in seven people (105,000 people) live in food insecure households. About one in six people in Sitka (1,500 of 9,000) are on food assistance programs, such as SNAP (food stamps) or WIC. The Food Bank of Alaska is able to recover and distribute about 5 million pounds of food that might otherwise be wasted each year, but the need is growing and that isn’t enough food to take care of Alaska’s hungry. Even food that’s gone bad can be recycled into compost for school gardens.

Statewide, the Second Annual Food Security Awareness Week is sponsored by Rep. Geran Tarr (D-Anchorage) and Rep. Scott Kawasaki (D-Fairbanks) in support of HCR 18, sponsored by Rep. Tarr, which will encourages schools and businesses to reduce, recover and recycle food waste in Alaska. In addition, Rep. Tarr, Rep. Kawasaki, and Rep. Chris Tuck (D-Anchorage) co-sponsored HB 92, requiring labeling of genetically modified food (including salmon).

A trailer for the movie is posted below.

• HCR 18 regarding the reduction of food waste in Alaska

• HB 92 regarding labeling of genetically modified food (including salmon) in Alaska

• 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.)