A local parent is challenging the Athens community to give and save.
Jenn Thompson is encouraging people to swipe their Pandemic Electronic Benefit (P-EBT) card at the Athens Farmers Market to get their benefit funds doubled, purchase goods for half price and donate the original amount swiped to the Athens Farmers Market.
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the state of Georgia started the P-EBT program to help families whose children receive free and reduced lunch at public schools.
Every family of a student who attends public school in the Clarke County School District is eligible for these funds, because the district is under Community Eligibility Provision (CEP). CEP allows all Clarke County School District students to receive free meals at school regardless of their household income.
Thompson has a child who is a senior at Clarke Central High School. When she found out her household was eligible for the benefit, she initially decided not to apply.
“My first reaction to it was to ignore it, because I’m fortunate enough to be employed by the University [of Georgia] and my husband is employed by the University. Gratefully, our jobs were not threatened during this pandemic,” she said.
Thompson works in UGA’s Department of Crop and Soil Sciences and conducts food system research. After discussing P-EBT benefits with her colleagues who work in school nutrition and social service, her opinion on applying for the program changed.
We should all be applying for these P-EBT benefits,” said Thompson, “and ideally spend them with local merchants bringing money back into our communities.”
Thompson decided to team up with the Athens Farmers Market to create the Jenn Thompson Challenge.
For the past decade, the farmers market has partnered with Wholesome Wave Georgia whose mission is to increase awareness and accessibility to healthy foods for people who are in need across the state of Georgia with the help of local farmers and community partners.
The Athens Farmers Market works with them for their double SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) initiative. This allows farmers market visitors to double their SNAP benefits whenever they make a purchase.
“We’ve seen a massive uptake in EBT card usage at the farmers market just in general and P-EBT has just bought it up to another level,” said Sarah Thurman, Athens Farmers Market Manager.
Every household that is eligible for P-EBT benefits receives $256.50 per child, so if they use their P-EBT card at the farmers market their benefits will double to $513 per child.
The Athens Farmers Market lost 75% of their income this year. They were closed for the first nine weeks of the season and reduced their number of vendors to adhere to social distancing guidelines.
Thompson said she wants people to triple their impact by supporting farmers in Northeast Georgia and the local farmers market during the pandemic.
“This is keeping the money in our local community, it’s supporting both our farmers market and our local farmers, and it’s supporting them three times over,” she said.
Kelsey Coffey is a senior majoring in journalism at the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia.
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