At Sitka’s ANB Founders Hall, tables line the walls and fill the center of the room. There are more out in the parking lot, too. They’re selling fish and vegetables, baked goods and some crafts.
“Today we have over 20 vendors here,” said Sabrina Cimerol, the farmers market co-manager.
Near where Cimerol is standing is a table with a credit card machine and a stack of wooden tokens. Its where you go at the market if you’re using a food assistance program like an Electronic Benefits Transfer card, usually called EBT.
Thanks to a grant from the State, the Sitka farmers market can make EBT purchases go twice as far.
“For the first $20 that you spend, we can match,” Cimerol said, “So, if you come and buy $20 worth of EBT, we can also match that and give you $40 of EBT coins that you can use to buy any EBT allowable item. We have a vendor who does biscotti, we have some jams, we have you know bread, baked goods. Definitely produce. That’s really what we’re encouraging.”
For some people, that extra $20 can be the difference between going to the grocery store and buying from local producers.
“They ring up the groceries and the total is like $68,” said Stacie Joseph. “I recognize that that is money that I’m saving that I put towards my schooling, instead of my grocery bill.”
Joseph lives in Sitka and uses some of the assistance programs when she shops at the farmers market. She is a certified nurse assistant and is in school at University of Alaska, Sitka to go into health information management. She says, with four kids and two adults, they go through a lot of food.
“Making sure that we’re healthy can be a struggle. Whether its getting the food, or getting them to eat it,” she said. “My own number one choice to go to the farmers market is to keep any resources that I have here in the community.”
According to market organizers, all of the produce that’s sold at the market has been grown in Sitka.
“We see other Southeast cities going under, having to close their schools, having to close offices. I love it here and I would hate to have to move.”
For customers like Joseph, the benefits go both ways: She gets to feed her kids healthy food and the money to buy it goes back to the Sitka community. The market’s matching program is helping to keep that exchange going.
The Sitka farmers market happens on alternating Saturdays, with the next one on August 17th. More information and upcoming dates can be found at Sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org.