More access to healthy foods for low-income Americans

Living on Earth

Story by Jessica Ilyse Smith, Living on Earth. Listen to audio above for full report.

A record number of Americans are now receiving federal food aid. Forty-six million people a month — half are kids. Once known as food stamps, today the program is called SNAP — the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Despite attempts to increase SNAP recipients’ access to wholesome foods, just a small fraction of the federal money, one-hundredth of a percent, is spent at farmers markets. To boost that, cities like Boston are trying a different tactic.

At the Copley Square Farmers Market, HIV-positive members from the Boston Living Center shop for produce using Bounty Bucks — the city’s program that doubles Federal SNAP benefits. It’s a dollar-for-dollar match up to ten dollars.

For those living with compromised immune systems, fresh fruits and vegetables are especially important for nutrition. But fresh produce can be prohibitively expensive. Boston Bounty Bucks is trying to make healthy food more attainable for low-income residents.

Edith Murnane, Boston’s director of food initiatives, says the program is all about accessibility.

“Farmers markets are a really interesting way to get fruits and vegetables into the inner city,” Murnane says. “I’m not only talking about physical accessibility, but it’s really economic accessibility, and the Boston Bounty Bucks really gets at that.”

The program also helps out farmers.

“It makes it economically viable for a farmer to come to the inner city,” Murnane explains. “It makes it economically feasible.”

There are now 21 farmers markets that participate in the program — Murnane says this shows the city’s strong commitment to public health.

The program is helping the city’s farmers markets accommodate SNAP users by providing grants for new technology. At the Copley Square Famers Market, a wireless terminals allows customers to simply swipe their EBT cards. The terminal logs on to each person’s SNAP benefits and matches up to ten dollars in Bounty Bucks.

Read the rest of this story on the Living on Earth website.


Hosted by Steve Curwood, “Living on Earth” is an award-winning environmental news program that delves into the leading issues affecting the world we inhabit. More about “Living on Earth.”

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