COLUMBIA — Healthy food in Columbia is about to get more accessible.

Plans are in place at the Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture to implement a system at its production farm, located at 1209 E. Smith St., to accept electronic food stamps called Electronic Benefit Transfer.

"A lot of people live on food stamps," said Adam Saunders, president of the center's board of directors. "It's really helpful for people because you got to get food in your belly. We're trying to make it so that more fresh food goes to people."

Electronic Benefit Transfer is a system similar to food stamps that allows its recipients to purchase food with a debit card. EBT is already used at many groceries and convenience stores, and in a nation where poverty is often associated with poor nutrition, the farm's use of the system offers another opportunity for food stamp recipients to buy locally grown produce.

Another bonus: At the center's production farm, where buyers will be able to use EBT, the organization will use a buy-one-get-one-free system.

"Every dollar for EBT is worth two (at our farm)," Saunders said. "So, that will make it more affordable, and our prices are already affordable. That will make some fantastic deals on good, good food."

Saunders said the two-for-one idea came from the local nonprofit group Sustainable Farms & Communities, which is trying to implement that system at the Columbia Farmers' Market.

The hitch at the farmers market is that the group still has to raise funds to fairly compensate farmers for their food, Saunders said. Because the Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture relies on volunteers, the two-for-one system doesn't present the same financial problems.

The center's production farm plans to have an EBT machine available within the next week, pending some final paperwork, Saunders said.

The farm sells fresh produce from 4 to 8 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The center also gives tours and accepts volunteers to work at the farm during those times.

Saunders encouraged people to come.

"This is a good time of year because there's a lot of things coming to harvest," Saunders said. "It's very exciting. It's a lot of work, but it's very rewarding. What we've been working for all spring is right now. The big harvest."

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