Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has forged what she calls “Bonus Bucks” to take some of the sting out of the federal food stamp spending slash that went into effect Nov. 1.

With $10,000 from two major local foundations, Rawlings-Blake’s program will allow Baltimore’s estimated 190,000 food stamp users to maximize their spending at farmers’ markets.

The money from the Kaiser Family and Abell foundations will provide food stamp recipients up to $10 extra a week if they use their EBT (electronic benefits transfer) cards at city farmers’ markets, the mayor explained when she unveiled the program Nov. 2.

“These families that rely on these dollars every single day, especially as it gets down to the end of the month, will have almost 40 less dollars,” the mayor said, referring to the benefit reduction a family of four can expect. “And if you’re living from check to check, that $40 makes a heck of a difference.”

The cuts come from the lapse of a provision in the 2009 stimulus act that pumped money into the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP).

“Under the program, when a SNAP recipient spends $5, they will get double the value of $10 to spend in SNAP eligible foods at the farmers market,” Rawlings-Blake said during the news conference.

The partnership will allow recipients to shop at the farmers market through the end of December, just in time for the holidays, she noted. It is a much-needed boost, said Molly McCloskey, the Maryland director of nonprofit group No Kid Hungry, who called the cuts “drastic.”

“This means more fresh fruits and vegetables in children’s and families meals,” McCloskey told the AFRO. “They have an opportunity to double their money.”

Blair Adams

AFRO Staff Writer