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Program works to provide fresh fruit, vegetables for Mainers in need

The Farm Fresh Rewards Program is working to get more fresh food in the hands of Mainers in need.

PORTLAND, Maine — The Farm Fresh Food Rewards program aims to get fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables into the hands of Mainers in need. Several food co-ops across the state say it's working.

"Our mission is to be a support to our entire community," John Crane, general manager at Portland Food Co-op, said. 

It's all about supporting the community through fresh food grown in Maine. The Good Shepard Food Bank is partnering with local food co-ops for its Farm Fresh Rewards Program.

For every $10 someone on EBT or SNAP benefits spends on fresh fruits and vegetables, they will get $5 back to buy even more healthy food.

The program has been in effect for a few years, but Good Shepherd has only been sponsoring the event since the start of the month.

"We're a business with a mission which is to support the local food economy and to provide nourishment to our community," Crane said.

At co-ops across Maine, people are taking advantage of these benefits and are finding creative ways to tell people who use SNAP and EBT about it.

"Our cashiers are able to very discreetly kind of, 'Hey, did you hear about this other program that we offer that could maybe help you out?' while at the same time maintaining that kind of discretion, so no one feels uncomfortable," Jess Bourne, co-op manager at Rising Tide Co-op, said. 

Not only is this helpful for Mainers in need but also for Maine farmers.

"It keeps more of our farmland in use as farmland. It's good for the soil. More farms just make our economy better and make us better," Crane said.