Through the years, we’ve worked with exceptional individuals who understand local challenges facing their communities, and have the passion and the vision to create opportunities where people can make healthy choices where they live, work, learn, play and pray. We’re recognizing these individuals, who have been nominated by their peers and colleagues, to showcase their commitment to making the healthy choice, the easy choice.
Raising children on a low-income and with limited resources is difficult for any parent. And buying healthy foods with those limited resources is even more difficult, but that didn’t stop one Spartanburg mom from feeding her family healthy, fresh foods and eventually stepping into a job that educates the SNAP community on the availability of SNAP purchases at the farmers’ market.
Jamie Gibson was once a SNAP recipient and customer at Hub City Farmers’ Market (Hub City). She’s been the SNAP Champion at the market since 2016 and works to increase Hub City’s SNAP customer base. Jamie says, “I see my role as two-fold: to provide a welcoming environment for our current SNAP shoppers, and to work with partner organizations serving low-income families to promote our program offerings.”
The program offerings Jamie is referring to is SNAP at the farmers’ market and the SC SNAP Healthy Bucks Program. Farmers’ markets across the country accept SNAP as a form of payment, as do many markets in South Carolina. Not only does Hub City in Spartanburg accept SNAP, but they also double SNAP benefits up to $40 every time it is open. SNAP customers can also receive a $10 produce match through the SC SNAP Healthy Bucks Program when they spend at least $5 in SNAP at the market.
“Through our Double SNAP Program and by offering SC SNAP Healthy Bucks, we are able to provide our small family farmers with an additional $43,000 annually. This kind of program offering is a long-term commitment, but the benefits are felt through the entire market organization,” says Jamie. “Having an incentive program like our Double SNAP Program is vital for equitable access to healthy produce.”
Even though the market began accepting SNAP long before Jamie arrived on the scene, her efforts to continue the momentum of their programs have been successful. That doesn’t mean she hasn’t faced her share of challenges like diversity at the farmers’ market.
“Farmers’ markets can be intimidating and exclude low-income populations in multiple ways. Some of the ways we’ve addressed this issue are by meeting SNAP shoppers outside of the market setting or meeting them when they arrive at the market to give guided tours and introduce them to our farmers,” says Jamie. “Establishing relationships with our shoppers and their families provides some comfort that pushes back on the notion that expensive farmers’ markets aren’t for them.”
Perhaps, she’s a successful SNAP Champion because she uses her own experiences as a SNAP recipient to make shopping at the farmers’ market appealing and welcoming to low-income families. Jamie truly has the passion and vision to increase access to fresh produce in her community, and that makes her a community leader.