Research demonstrates that financial incentives or “bonus bucks” have a defining impact on the number of SNAP recipients using their benefits at the markets, and the rate at which they return there to shop. In a 2010 study of the Boston Bounty Bucks program, 87% of participating SNAP recipients reported they were consuming more fresh produce as the result of the program and that they would continue to eat more produce even without the assistance of Bounty Bucks (Kim, 2010). Nationally-recognized organizations like Wholesome Wave and Fair Food Network, which have popularized incentive programs at farmers markets, have numerous resources on their web sites. Many markets have even found success developing independent, locally-funded incentive programs rather than working with national funders. The Portland Farmers Market raised funds in the community for their Fresh Exchange Program, and launched a companion organization called Farmers Market Fund in order to administer Fresh Exchange across the city. The Hub City Farmers Market in Spartanburg, South Carolina has leveraged two distinct funding sources to operate a “Double SNAP” program. To learn more about your options intitiating or funding an incentive campaign, consult The EBT Incentive Program Toolkit published by the Washington State Farmers Market Association, or The Oregon Farmers Markets Association’s web page devoted to starting SNAP-Based incentive programs, covering logistic aspects like volunteers and marketing as well as funding and evaluation.
Cooking demonstrations are proven methods to engage and educate customers, regardless of the payment method they use. Markets large and small have institutionalized regular Chef at Market programs that highlight creative but simple recipes with fresh produce. Look to Fondy Farmers Market’s Seasonal Soul weekly cooking demonstration workshops, or Portland Farmers Market’s Chef in the Market as just a couple of examples of successful cooking demonstrations helping to “demystify” the diversity and seasonality of local produce.
Ensuring that people can access your market regardless of their mode of transportation is critical, and lack of transportation options during market hours is cited as an obstacle by many SNAP users. Some markets offering SNAP have found that partnering with local public transportation to bring more people to the market has helped increase SNAP sales. The Columbia Farmers Market in Missouri, as one example, even helped fund a new bus route to the market during its operating hours. Local transportation agencies may be willing to circulate flyers to riders, while buses and bus stops themselves offer advertising opportunities that could more directly reach your target audience than newspaper or online advertisements.
Snap-ED & Outreach:
Farmers markets are an ideal community-based platform for education about fresh, nutritious foods to SNAP participants and their families. The USDA Food and Nutrition Service’s SNAP-Ed program seeks “to improve the likelihood that persons eligible for SNAP will make healthy choices within a limited budget and choose active lifestyles consistent with the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans and MyPlate.” In recent years, SNAP-Ed administrators have increasingly embraced farmers markets as a venue for educating SNAP participants, and even offer a Seasonal Produce Guide on the national SNAP-Ed web site. Many state SNAP-Ed programs are contracted out to Land Grant University Extension Services, so reach out to your state’s SNAP-Ed contact to see if they might be willing to partner on education activities at your market. In addition, FNS also partners with state and local organizations and agencies to conduct SNAP Outreach to reach out to eligible low-income people who are not currently participating in SNAP and share information about the program. If you are interested in hosting SNAP Outreach activities at your market, identify your Regional SNAP Outreach contacts here.
Parents and caregivers are attracted to free, outdoor venues where their children can interact with others, learn something, and maybe even get a free sticker, pencil, or other inexpensive freebie. Don’t underestimate the power of children to bring adults to the market. Programs like the Power of Produce (POP) Club can engage children in cooking and the discovery of new vegetables and fruits. If your market has sufficient staff or volunteer resources, offer childrens’ art contests, taste tests, or a coloring table with crayons where kids can with color pages of vegetables, fruits, farm animals, and cooking tools. Many sites offer free downloadable coloring pages just for this purpose, so visit sites like Fruits & Veggies: More Matters! to get started with simple tools for engaging kids at your market.
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