Mayor’s Health Council wants farmers’ market to take EBT

Published 12:37 pm Friday, September 19, 2014

Members of the Mayor’s Health Council hope to work out a plan under which the city’s farmers’ market can accept EBT transactions as part of a plan to improve the health of Vicksburg residents.

“If we don’t get people healthier, they’re always going to be sick and depending on the government’s pockets,” said council member Vanessa Prentiss, who teaches health classes at Kings Empowerment Center. “This is our city, and we want our city to last and our people to last.”

Council member Gail Kavanaugh, who is nutrition director for the Vicksburg Warren School District, said the system could involve the farmers’ market manager accepting EBT transactions and issuing tokens that can be traded to market vendors, or allowing farmers to accept EBT payments at their booths.

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The ability to accept EBT transactions would allow more access to fresh fruits and vegetables for low-income residents, Kavanaugh said. EBT is accepted at several farmers’ markets around the state, she said.

“It’s very important for the community to know this is in the best interest of farmers and the community,” she said. “The closer you consume your food, and the closer it’s grown to you, the more it retains vitamins and minerals.”

So far, the move has been a tough sell to farmers, she said.

“Many of them are skeptical and don’t want the government involved in their business,” she said.

The council, which is made up of about 15 members ranging from health department officials to community activists, is also planning to seek grant funding to build parks and walking trails.

“If we can build walking trails and bike trails, we need to do it,” Prentiss said. “We know the city can’t do it.”

The council began meeting in January and this week received an award from the state for their accomplishments in the past nine months.

“A lot of people hear of us, but they don’t know what we’re about,” Prentiss said.

The council meets the third Wednesday of every month and alternates between meeting places. For more information, call Prentiss at Kings Empowerment Center, 601-634-4756.