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Families in need will benefit from Mills River’s American Rescue Plan cash.

The town plans to give $70,000 of the $2.36 million it received from the ARP to fund the double SNAP program at the Mills River Farm Market, Mills River Town Manager Daniel Cobb said. The money, which amounts to $17,500 per year over four years, will allow the farmers’ market to continue helping families that rely on government assistance to put food on the table, organizers of the farmers’ market said.
“We’re hoping the $17,500 the town has earmarked for us will be sufficient,” said Linda Brittain, who coordinates the farmers’ market with her husband, Joe.
The tailgate market operates 8 a.m. to noon on Saturdays May through October at Mills River Elementary School on School House Road. The market features local produce, meat, eggs, cheese and crafts.
Several years ago, the market began doubling the amount for customers who pay with funds from the government’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Customers receive tokens to use at the farmers’ market for every dollar they spend at the market on their SNAP cards.
The non-profit market decided to begin the double snap program because it wanted to encourage people to shop local and eat healthy, Brittain said.
“Health and nutrition are important. That was one way we felt we could contribute to that,” she said.
When the farmers’ market began offering double SNAP five or six years ago, organizers went door to door seeking donations to fund the program. The market eventually received grants, including a federal grant to cover the cost of double SNAP.
“This year, a lot of these grants are drying up,” Brittain said.
In addition to helping people in need eat healthy, the farmers’ market also benefits local agriculture, the Brittains said.
Vendors at the market are required to be local farmers who grow their own produce. Seafood sold at the market is also required to come from the coast of North Carolina, Joe Brittain said.
“Our goal is to support the local farmers,” he said. “We want to give them a place to sell their local produce.”
In addition to the double snap program, Mills River also used some of the ARP funds to support the town’s fire department, Cobb said. The town council gave $75,000 to Mills River Fire and Rescue to provide premium pay for first responders, Cobb said.
Mills River has not yet decided how to spend the remainder of its ARP funds but has considered providing assistance to not-for-profit organizations and investing to preserve open space, Cobb said.
“I anticipate by the fall we will have decisions made,” he said.