By Pat Warren

BALTIMORE (WJZ) —Getting food to people who need assistance becomes more complicated as the company that processes food stamp benefits at Baltimore farmers markets shuts down.

Farmers markets are destinations for weekend outings, but perhaps most importantly, they are a wellspring of fresh produce, baked goods and meats not readily available in the city’s food deserts where grocery stores are few and far between. That makes them especially important to families on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

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“You know, we have some of the robust farmers markets in the country. The Jones Falls farmers market, you can barely get through there because so many families are now using their SNAP benefits there as well as we have a lot of local farmers markets as well,” Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh said.

But the SNAP food stamps program may no longer be accepted at farmers markets because the company that processes the benefit payments is shutting down. and the new company doesn’t have a process in place.

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“The initial announcement came out, I think, two weeks ago saying at the end of July if you have SNAP benefits, you won’t be able to go to the farmers markets,” said Baltimore Food Policy Director Holly Freishtat. “They extended it through funding through August. We’re hoping it will continue with funding and have no disruption in farmers markets. In the event that there is a disruption, we’re looking at short-term and long-term solutions.”

The impact is equally felt by local farmers in loss of income, and the Farmers Market Coalition has a crowdfunding page to help pay for new processing equipment if a permanent solution isn’t found.

There are eight farmers markets in Baltimore City that accept snap benefits. Three of them — Waverly, Govan and Druid Hill — will continue to accept them. They’re looking at alternatives for the Jones Falls.

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