Some local stores now offering affordable organic food program

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Youngstown is known for having limited food options within city borders.

So, Lake to River Food Co-op on the north side of Youngstown is working to give the community access to healthy, organic foods without breaking the bank.

The Produce Perks program is part of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). It gives extra produce to those who wouldn’t be able to afford it otherwise.

The Co-op says they’re thrilled to offer this program to their clients because it’s a much-needed service in the community.

“Here on the north side, we really don’t have a lot of places with access to really great, healthy, fresh produce. So the prospects of having that for people was like, ‘Yes, we’ll do that,'” said Susan Payton, manager of the Cultivate Cafe.

The Co-op has accepted Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards from customers for a while, and this month, they joined forces with the Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation (YNDC) to launch the Produce Perks SNAP Double-Up program.

The program gives extra fruits and vegetables to people on government assistance.

“Use your EBT on your regular groceries and then we’re going to match that with tokens,” Payton said.

Dennis Pautot is one of those people. He just found out about Produce Perks.

“I have a hard time keeping my bills paid … I wanted to come in and just check it out, and … the fact that I can get it right here, three blocks from my house, is like totally great,” he said.

During the winter months, the Co-op out-sources to fill their food case. But, that will change in a few months.

“What we’re going to be offering towards summertime is all going to be local produce, and people really enjoy knowing that they’re buying local,” Payton said.

Pautot says it’s nice to know that the Co-op cares about people like him.

“The fact that they’re going to help out the community in general, and between what they’re going to do with the local produce, the local farmers and just the fact that it’s locally and organically grown is just absolutely amazing,” he said.

The Produce Perks program is being offered around the city and in Warren in various supermarkets and stores.

For more information about the program, visit the YNDC website.

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