Former SNAP Recipient Helps Increase Access to Fresh Produce at Farmers Markets

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This post originally appeared on the USDA blog on March 24, 2011.

Corey Chapman, EBT Coordinator for City of Chicago farmers markets, processes a woman’s benefits card so she can purchase items at the market.

If there’s one thing Corey Chatman is passionate about, it’s making sure everyone has access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Maybe it’s because he knows what it’s like to rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) for nourishment.

During the recent financial crisis, Corey was down on his luck and needed SNAP assistance to make ends meet. After he found a job with the Chicago-area nonprofit, Experimental Station, Corey was able to discontinue his SNAP benefits. To this day he’s adamant about promoting the safety net that helped him through a tough time.

“I view this as a tremendous opportunity to give back to the community…by helping a valuable government program that helped me when I needed it the most,” he says. For his day job, Corey helps Chicago farmers markets set up Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) machines so they can accept SNAP benefits. He set up the first EBT machines in 2010, and soon after farmers markets sales soared. Participating markets earned a record $28,944 in total SNAP/EBT transactions. And one market even broke Illinois state records for both complete season and one day sales.

Ensuring families have access to nutritious food, including fresh fruits and vegetables, is a key objective of the First Lady’s Let’s Move!initiative aimed at reducing childhood obesity and improving the health of Americans. And farmers’ markets are vital in providing this access. Corey’s future plans include implementing EBT machines at farmers markets across the state. He will happily offer free EBT consulting, training and on-site maintenance services to market managers, thanks in large part to a USDA Farmers’ Market Promotion Program (FMPP) grant.

We look forward to an update on Corey’s work as he continues to help those in need.

Megan Bensette is a Public Affairs Intern with the USDA FNS Midwest Region.

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