Farmers Markets Make Local Food Fair For Everyone

By: Liz Comiskey       Posted On: August 1, 2012

For Immediate Release

Contact : Elizabeth Comiskey
August 9, 2012


Farmers Market Coalition Celebrates Fresh Food Equity During National Farmers Market Week

This summer, nationwide participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is at a record high of approximately 46 million Americans.  Fortunately, the families relying on this and other programs to put food on the table have a friend in farmers markets, where an increasing number of low-income consumers are purchasing locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables.

In 2011, participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) redeemed more than $11.7 million in benefits at farmers markets. This represents a 55% increase in one year.   In the past five years, the number of farmers markets accepting SNAP benefits increased 360%.  At least one hundred of these farmers markets are in what the USDA Economic Research Service considers food deserts.

United States Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack proclaimed August 5-11, 2012 as National Farmers Market Week.  Since 2000, the number of recorded farmers markets has grown approximately 170%, from 2,863 markets in 2000 to more than 7,800 in 2012.  Along with such growth comes inspiring innovation at the local level designed to ensure that farmers markets are making quality food available to all members of a community.

  • Nationwide, 1.9 million WIC mothers and 863,000 low-income seniors were able to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables directly from farmers at thousands of farmers markets in 2011 through the WIC and Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Programs.
  • Farmers at seven farmers markets making up the Neighborhood Farmers Market Alliance in Seattle donated 44,000 pounds of fresh, local, quality produce to food banks in 2011.
  • Through a partnership with a local health food store, farmers at the Webb City Farmers Market in Missouri donated enough fresh produce to serve 4,000 vegetarian and vegan meals to tornado relief volunteers working in the heat after the Joplin tornado last May.
  • In 2011, SNAP transactions at New York City Greenmarkets exceeded $638,000, representing a 63,000% increase from when the program began in 2005.
  • The Glenwood Sunday Market, like many across the U.S., saw the number of SNAP clients buying fresh, local food more than double between 2010 and 2011 market seasons.
  • Thanks to the expansion of wireless technology enabling the market to accept SNAP benefits, $130,000 in SNAP dollars was spent at the Fulton Street Market in Michigan in 2011 compared to the $17,000 spent in 2009.
  • A recent Economic Research Service report showed that less healthy foods tend to have a low price per calorie, exacerbating the difficulty of adding healthy fresh fruits and vegetables into American diets. However, a price comparison study conducted by students at Seattle University showed that most vegetables sold at the farmers market had lower if not comparable prices to their grocery store. Further, in 74% of the communities examined in Anthony Flaccavento’s price comparison study of Appalachia and the Southeast, produce was less expensive at farmers markets compared to supermarkets, on average by 22%.
  • The Columbia Farmers Market in Missouri is using part of their funding from a Farmers Market Promotion Program grant from USDA to fund a new Saturday morning bus route that would connect some of Columbia’s food desserts to the farmers market.

“Farmers markets are an essential player in the fight for food equality,” says Sharon Yeago, Treasurer and past President of the Farmers Market Coalition.  “Markets are increasingly being utilized by communities to provide access to healthy foods, not only feeding our most at-risk citizens, but local growers as well. “


Seven Days, Seven Ways to Celebrate Farmers Market Impacts

Innovative partnerships that allow markets to serve as hubs of information

Promoting good nutrition and healthful habits

Business incubation, job development, and local spending

Governance and policies that put farmers first

Improving access to healthful foods in underserved neighborhoods  

Growing social capital and engaging volunteers

Supporting agricultural diversity and farm viability, while inspiring a new generation of producers


The Farmers Market Coalition (FMC) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to

strengthening farmers markets for the benefit of farmers, consumers, and communities.

  Learn more at