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Dollar-matching program expands

Partnership between the Lake Oswego Farmers Market and Whole Food allows extra SNAP tokens to be spent at new 365 grocery store

INGLISStarting this Saturday, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients who shop at the Lake Oswego Farmers Market are going to have a new option to help stretch their funds: the City has partnered with Whole Foods Market to give SNAP users extra tokens to spend at either the Farmers Market or the new 365 by Whole Foods grocery store downtown.

In past years, the Farmers Market has run a “dollar-matching” program as a way to provide increased access to fresh and healthy food for low-income residents. The program functions as an add-on to the market’s token system, which allows shoppers to use their credit or debit cards to buy dollar tokens from the merchant services booth.

But there are also separate tokens that can be purchased using Oregon Trail SNAP cards. (The SNAP tokens are separate, because SNAP funds cannot be used to purchase alcohol and non-food items.) The matching system gives visitors an extra $1 token for each SNAP dollar they spend at the Farmers Market, up to a specific limit each week.

“The tokens are the same as your SNAP dollars,” says Jaime Inglis, the City’s Farmers Market manager.

Debbi Campbell, who coordinates sponsorship opportunities for the City’s Parks & Rec Department, says the Farmers Market sought a partner to expand the dollar-matching program. Officials reached out to Whole Foods, she says, because the grocery store has a similar vision and goal of getting fresh food to consumers.

“We approached them totally blind and got a positive response,” Campbell says.

Thanks to the partnership with Whole Foods, the weekly token limit has now been raised to $10. That means visitors can receive up to $10 in extra SNAP tokens each week, and those extra tokens can be spent at either the Farmers Market or at the 365 by Whole Foods store down the street.

Like any grocery store, 365 also accepts SNAP cards for payment, but the extra tokens must be acquired by shopping at the Farmers Market.

“We have a commitment to food access in our region, and we interact with our communities by listening,” says Amelia Pape, 365’s food access coordinator. “When we came to Lake Oswego, we learned from residents about the SNAP matching program. It really made sense to partner with the City.”

Inglis says the tokens will provide “an opportunity to complete your meal” — lots of fresh produce can be purchased at the Farmers Market, but residents will also be able to visit 365 for things like dairy and meats. Pape also describes it as a way of “building your pantry” — extra funding to buy basic staples like spices and oils, to encourage more home cooking.

Inglis says the need for such a program might come as a surprise, given Lake Oswego’s reputation as a home for higher-income earners. But the city does have some lower-income residential areas, and Inglis says City staff are committed to “bringing nutrition to all citizens.”

“Lake Oswego is widely known as affluent. We’re stereotyped as a population where poverty doesn’t exist,” says Inglis. “But currently, approximately 8.5 percent of our families are economically disadvantaged.”

The tokens won’t expire until the end of the Farmers Market season, so visitors can save them and visit 365 later in the week. Inglis and Pape say they envision a scenario where residents could buy a few days’ worth of fresh vegetables at the Farmers Market on Saturday, then use the extra tokens at 365 to restock their supply during the week.

“This is a pilot program, so we’d like to learn and share best practices,” says Pape. “If it works well, we’d love to see it expand. We hope that we can share what a good partnership will look like.”

The program begins Aug. 6 and will continue “until funding runs out.” But Inglis says that based on the use rates of earlier versions of the program, officials expect this round will have enough funding to last all the way through to the end of the Farmers Market season on Oct. 8.

“At the end of the day, we just want people to be able to eat healthier,” Inglis says.

The Lake Oswego Farmers Market is open every Saturday from 8:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. at Millennium Plaza Park (200 First St.); 365 by Whole Foods Market, which is located at 11 S. State St in the Oswego Village shopping center, is open daily from 8 a.m.-10 p.m.

Contact Anthony Macuk at 503-636-1281 ext. 108 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..