I read with interest the recent article, “Changes coming as Edmonds Museum Summer Market prepares to open this weekend” (May 2, 2022); most specifically, a “food bank booth and drop-off station.” Although having a food bank presence is a plus, it does not replace the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the largest federal assistance nutrition program in the United States which provides benefits to eligible low-income individuals and families. Unfortunately, both the City of Edmonds and the Edmonds-South Snohomish County Historical Society, which oversees the market, have said they do not have the resources or capacity to implement and manage the program.
One of the most pleasurable experiences in Edmonds is the farmers market. Those who rely on SNAP benefits prefer to choose the food they serve to their families just as others do. More than just shopping, it is an opportunity to meet new people, spend time with family and enjoy seeing the sights.
Customers who receive SNAP benefits will also quality for the SNAP Market Match, an additional amount of up to $40 to help them stretch their food budget. Accepting SNAP benefits and the Market Match will provide much needed funds for nutritious foods to people with limited means and increase revenue for the farmers and small business vendors.
Underrepresented groups, households with children, individuals with physical challenges and the elderly often have to choose between putting food on the table and paying their bills. We should welcome rather than exclude them. As Mayor Mike Nelson said in his address, Jan. 20, 2022, “It takes a lot to implement strategies and initiatives…that promote inclusivity, recognition, respect, and appreciation.” Shouldn’t offering SNAP benefits at the farmers market be a priority?
Susan Banks and Pat Moriarty
Response from the Edmonds-South Snohomish County Historical Society
We received your invitation to respond to the letter to the editor by Ms. Banks, and appreciate the opportunity to provide additional insights. First, by way of background, the Edmonds Summer Markets are a program of the Edmonds-South Snohomish County Historical Society — a 501(c)(3) non-profit—and the revenue generated by vendor booth sales is used to cover our expenses to operate the museum and our historic collection for the benefit of Edmonds citizens and visitors. Our Market has only one paid Market Manager, whom we retain under contract. All other functions needed to run the market are covered by volunteers—and our volunteer pool has reduced significantly recently due to Covid concerns. Our Markets operation is run in a very lean manner and we often have difficulty finding volunteers to cover the existing functions.
We have investigated establishing a formal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) for our entire summer market program, and have found it would require additional administrative work that far exceeds the volunteer capacity we now have. In the future, we may be able to secure additional volunteer labor capacity and may be able to revisit the SNAP program—especially if an outside agency would be willing to provide staffing for the program. Other farmers’ markets in the area now offering SNAP are utilizing a different model than our summer markets: many of them are “for profit” enterprises with paid staff that can implement and administer the program. Our model is clearly different.
Having said this, we are certainly sensitive to the issue of food insecurity in our community and have taken actions to help those with needs for low or no cost food items. First, the summer market is registered with the state to participate in FMNP (the Farmers Market Nutrition Program). As a registered market, shoppers can use their FMNP vouchers, in the form of Women, Infants and Children (WIC) or Senior Nutrition Vouchers, with participating farmers. The majority of our farmers are registered to accept these vouchers, and display signs at their booths at our markets to let customers know they can use them there. The summer market has been participating in the FMNP Program for about 9 years now, with shoppers spending over $8,000 in vouchers at the market last season alone.
In addition, we have invited the Edmonds Food Bank to participate in our summer markets for the 2022 season, and we will provide them a vendor space at no charge. We are encouraging our vendors to donate items to the food bank at the food bank van, and shoppers will also be welcome to make food or cash donations there. Look for the Edmonds Food Bank van this year near the intersection of 5th and Bell on market Saturdays. We are confident the presence of the food bank van will help increase the supply of needed food items for those experiencing food insecurity in our community. And to the extent the food bank can help supply certain food items at no charge to individuals and families with that need, those individuals and families will be able to use their SNAP benefits to purchase at local grocery stores other food items not available at the food bank.
Finally, as mentioned above, we are always seeking interested, energetic volunteers willing to help us put on outstanding Summer Markets. If you are interested in volunteering, simply go to the Edmonds Museum website at this link: Volunteer at the Edmonds Historical Museum • Edmonds Historical Museum (historicedmonds.org) and fill out the on-line volunteer application. We’d love for you to join us!
We believe our summer markets provide a great service to all Edmonds citizens and visitors and look forward to a great 2022 season. We hope to see you there!
— Dave Teitzel, Edmonds-South Snohomish County Historical Society Board