New farmer's markets in Dot may take food assistance cards

Three new farmer's markets are cropping up in Dorchester this spring, and they, along with other stands already selling fresh veggies, may soon take EBT food assistance on the spot with the city matching up to $5 per purchase.

"It may be coincidence but I think a couple forums have happened and people are much more aware of the poor health in the city related to nutrition," said Cammy Watts, a lead organizer in the initiative who works at Dorchester's The Food Project near Uphams Corner. "Many people in urban areas live in a food desert."

The Food Project already operates a stand in Dudley Commons just outside of Uphams Corner and plans to open a second in the parking lot at Bowdoin Street Health Center on Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. starting on July 10. The organization runs a sustainable agriculture and youth education program with an office on Dudley Street at West Cottage Streets and cultivates a few urban farm plots and a larger farm in Lincoln, Mass. It has become a model for educating youth on farming, food and nutrition that is emulated across the country and the world.

FAMILY Inc. will be managing a second market in front of Codman Square Health Center on Washington Street on Thursdays, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. from June 12 to Oct. 23.

"I noticed in Codman Square there was a lack of places to buy fresh produce for a reasonable price," said Elali Moukwa, an intern at FAMILY Inc from Boston University who started looking into a market as a research project and was eventually hired to oversee the market. "I wanted to provide this farmer's market, a source for great healthy nutritious meals."

Dorchester House will manage the third new market, to be located in their parking lot just off Dorchester Avenue on Wednesdays from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. The opening day has yet to be announced.

Along with those already existing in Dorchester at Fields Corner and Franklin Park, the three stands are set to get machines that accept Electronic Benefit Transfer cards - better known as food stamps - in a program organized by the city of Boston and Watts from The Food Project. All of the stands already accept WIC and Senior Coupons, and a stand in Mattapan already takes EBT. The city of Boston has also pledged $10,000 to match EBT purchases up to $5 at all of the stands so that buyers get more bang for their buck. That and rising fuel prices could make the markets a bargain.

"It may prove this summer that local food is cheaper than the kind in the store that is shipped from California and Chile," Watts said.