Growing Your Grassroots

By: Ethel Recinos       Posted On: May 28, 2020

The data that FMC has collected over the past decade and a half indicate what many suspect: farmers markets are important staples in our communities. Not only a place to buy fresh local produce, farmers markets serve as a place to connect with others and be reminded of the integral role food plays in our lives and our society.

But what happens when farmers markets don’t fully represent the communities they serve? How can markets reach community members that have never been to farmers markets? Or those community members that feel intimidated to approach the market? How do we shift the “elitist” narrative around farmers markets to one of  markets as vital sources of farm fresh food for an  economically and culturally diverse group of attendees? 

Much of FMC’s work over the past five years has been focused on overcoming the technical challenges for markets to be able to accept SNAP payments from equipment access to accounting and data collection. Yet many market managers still struggle to increase their nutrition incentive redemption rates, indicating a gap in reaching the communities that they are hoping to serve. “Dr. Darcy Freedman has alluded to the importance of community outreach, among other factors, in the success of nutrition incentive programs in her research.* Some market organizations have found success through focused community outreach programs. 

On June 5th, FMC will be hosting a webinar to hear from market organizations that have successfully implemented community led outreach and have increased SNAP redemption at their farmers markets.

The Michigan Farmers Market Association and the Michigan Fitness Foundation have implemented the Food Navigator Program which operates in Michigan farmers markets that accept food assistance benefits and are located in under-served communities. Food Navigators are community members who are present in participating markets and welcome families using SNAP benefits by providing market tours, providing nutrition education, recipe demonstrations, food tastings, and building relationships. 

Case Western Reserve University, Prevention Research Center for Healthy Neighborhoods in Cleveland, Ohio, developed the  FreshLink Ambassador Program. This approach leverages social connections, trustworthiness, and capacity of community champions who raise awareness about and build social connections to farmers’ markets located in their neighborhoods. 

Growing Your Grassroots: Employing Local Community Leaders for SNAP & Incentive Outreach will be an opportunity to hear about the implementation, challenges, and successes of community led outreach. The presenters will answer questions and give support to markets who are interested in implementing a grassroots outreach approach. Registerz to learn about how to make your market an inclusive community staple:

Find more upcoming webinars and training opportunities here. 

*Dr Freedman’s 2019 article in the American Journal of Health Promotion suggests 4 main factors for the success of nutrition incentive programs:

(1) more than 1 incentive program, (2) paid farmers’ market staff responsible for incentive programming, (3) high numbers of produce vendors available on each market day, and (4) outreach to garner more customers overall combined with targeted efforts to promote farmers’ market use among African American SNAP recipients living in urban communities.

Freedman, D. A., Ngendahimana, D., Shon, E. J., Merritt, K., & Pon, J. (2019). Predictors of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Use at Farmers’ Markets With Monetary Incentive Programming. American Journal of Health Promotion, 33(7), 1039-1048.