Recently, the Minnesota House Agriculture Committee announced a compromise budget agreement; however, one thing cut during closed-door budget negotiations was the Healthy Eating Here at Home program, known colloquially as the Market Bucks program.
Market Bucks, which has a proposed budget of $325,000 per year, empowered Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients by providing up to a $10 match for SNAP money spent at local farmers’ markets. This program helped not only the 1 in 9 Minnesotans facing food insecurity but also the farmers behind that food and their local economies. In addition, the USDA awarded this program a full federal match on top of providing the funds for SNAP, meaning that for every $1 Minnesota spent, $3 poured into local economies.
With families still recovering from the damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, this program is more important now than ever. According to Sen. Susan Kent, Sen. Torrey Westrom, the chair of the Senate Ag Committee, justified the cut by citing concerns about SNAP recipients “double-dipping” benefits. Even assuming that Westrom’s argument is true, I would respond: is that a bad thing? Market Bucks connects our state’s hungry with fresh, nutritious, locally grown food in a way that benefits Minnesota farmers and local communities and costs the state little.
I would urge our legislators to fund the Market Bucks program and not to take food out of the mouths of hungry Minnesotans.
John Hest lives in Glyndon, Minn.
This letter does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum's editorial board nor Forum ownership.