With an increased number of farmers’ markets accepting food assistance benefits, the Michigan Farmers Market Association (MIFMA), the Michigan State University (MSU) Center for Regional Food Systems, and the MSU Student Organic Farm are facilitating a program designed to introduce vulnerable families to local farmers’ markets and to provide the families with the resources they need to become loyal repeat customers.
The loan program, “Hoophouses for Health,” is funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and allows food-insecure families to assist farmers in paying back loans they have secured to build hoop houses on their farms.
Farmers pay off their hoop house loans by accepting vouchers as payment for the food they sell at the farmers’ market. The dollar amount of the food distributed is then taken off the loan amount that the farmer owes. Farmers have five years to pay back the zero-interest loan. The program plans to distribute $500,000 over a three-year period to farmers seeking to install hoop houses, which will in turn disburse food of an equal value to Head Start families over a five-year repayment schedule. Applications for the loan will be available shortly. Visit Michigan State University Hoophouse for more information.