There's a new push to get fresh foods to people who can't afford it on their own. Eyewitness News has covered areas where they live known as “food deserts" for years -- called that because of a lack of access to grocery stores. But Eyewitness News learned a farmers market in South End is working to make sure the best food is available for everyone.
From milk to cheese to vegetables, most people who come to the Atherton Mill Farmers Market are coming to buy fresh food.
"It's the freshest food you can get town, unless it’s coming from your own garden," said LynnErin Tyler, owner of Simply Local.
But with food straight from the field, you pay for what you get. Josh Owens has been on food stamps for a year. He's also been an intern at the market for about a month, and after learning its benefits, he was excited to learn he could buy it too.
"I didn't think I'd be able to shop anywhere like Atherton Market. You know, we all have different circumstances and sometimes we need a little extra help," he said.
Tyler said because it’s a nontraditional market, it took them about a year and a half to apply to provide food stamps.
"It actually is a bit of a process to be approved to accept it, and part of that is just making sure the right foods are available," Tyler said.
Being in what the federal government classifies as a "food desert," Atherton Mills Farmers Market is the only option in its ZIP code that offers EBT. Along with the change, its hours of operation were expanded to five days a week.
"Because we are located in a food desert, we can make available the very best, most nutritious food," Tyler said.
Customers use their EBT card to purchase tokens, and they can then exchange the tokens for any food item in the market.
"It’s beneficial because of how healthy and fresh the food is here and also because eating organic can be so pricey sometimes," Owens said.
It’s an opportunity Owens hopes he can always take advantage of.
The Atherton Mills farmers market is also working with area churches in NoDa and west Charlotte to offer the same fresh foods on Saturdays to others who can't make it to South End.