In the process of reporting for my Wednesday column in The Baltimore Sun, I learned about (and made a donation to) the Maryland Market Money program, designed to reward food stamp recipients for choosing to buy healthy, locally grown food at farmers markets.
My column is about Andy Harris, the state’s generally awful Republican in Congress, and his push to forbid the use of SNAP benefits to purchase sugary beverages and unhealthy food. It’s hard to argue against the facts — obesity, diabetes and heart disease are all related to bad diets, starting with sugar-sweetened soft drinks — but it’s a national issue, and singling out low-income people who need help paying for groceries is discriminatory and stigmatizing. It’s also doubtful that such a restriction will keep people from buying Coke and other high-sugar drinks. (Knowing Harris, I suspect this is really just another way to meet the irresponsible Republican agenda to cut food stamps during an inflationary cycle.)

If we want to regulate spending habits of SNAP recipients then it would be better to incentivize and reward them for buying healthier food instead of punishing them for buying bad stuff.

So that gets me to the Maryland Market Money program. This is how it works: Customers using SNAP/EBT benefits at one of 46 farmers markets and farm stands are eligible to receive a dollar-for-dollar match in Maryland Market Money currency (blue $1 tokens), up to $10 per household per market day. (Doesn’t sound like much but it’s better than nothing.) Maryland Market Money can then be spent on any SNAP-eligible food items at those locations.
The program gets private and public funds through the Farms and Food Access for a Resilient Maryland Foundation (FFARMd) and the Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission. The idea is to get produce and dairy products from Maryland farmers into the market bags of people who need federal help paying for food. “Most studies will show you that, if you give people more dollars, they buy healthier food because that’s what they can afford to do,” says Michael Wilson, director of Maryland Hunger Solutions.

Wednesday column: Andy Harris plays doctor to cut food stamps

4 thoughts on “Incentivizing food stamp recipients to make healthy choices

    1. People voted for him. His campaign featured slogans that implied a vote for him would stick it to Nancy Pelosi in some way – there were add=on little posters to his main posters about Nancy Pelosi. As far as I know, she wasn’t running against him. I was eager to vote against him. but my vote was a drop in the ocean of conservatives. Andy Harris is such a repellant human being. He’s on the wrong side of any question or position that would help people in any way. Help should not come with strings attached. This attack on SNAP recipients is so repulsive I can’t even find words for it. It’s a power play against people who need some help. But that’s Andy – he always punches down.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. He keeps teasing that he is going to retire. This was the first year I fell into his district. He does things that are COUNTER productive. Some of his constituents are very conservative, as he is. Others, I think are lazy and vote Republican because that’s what they have always done. I donate money to his opponent, Heather Mazur, I wore her tee shirts, put bumper stickers on my car and house, I badgered my friends and neighbors. And Andy’s people voted him in again. I can’t figure it out.

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s