Webinars, Resources & TA: A Year of Highlighting Market Operators in the Nutrition Incentive Hub

      Posted On: January 7, 2021

As the new calendar year kicks off and the Farmers Market Coalition (FMC) team begins working towards 2021 goals, it’s important to celebrate the foundational work and accomplishments made in 2020. 

Last year brought many opportunities for farmers markets and FMC. A major one was collaborating with Ecology Center and Michigan Farmers Market Association (MIFMA) as members of the Nutrition Incentive Hub. The Nutrition Incentive Hub was created by the National Training, Technical Assistance, Evaluation and Information Center (NTAE) to provide training, technical assistance, reporting, and evaluation support to Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program (GusNIP) grantees. This was an exciting opportunity for the three organizations to work together to ensure the perspective of farmers markets and farm direct operators were included in training, technical assistance, and resources we created.

2020 In Review

To maximize our efforts to elevate nutrition incentive work in farm-direct settings (farmers markets, farm stands, CSA), FMC took an “all hands on deck” approach. Under the leadership of Training & TA Director, Darlene, our team grew — welcoming four additions to make up the FMC GusNIP team. Rachael joined as the GusNIP Project Manager , Ethel as the GusNIP Logistics & Communications Associate,  Nina as the GusNIP Research and Resource Associate, Katie brings in the tech perspective as the GusNIP Farm Direct Technology Manager and Diana works to keep us connected as the Training and Technical Assistance. In true FMC spirit, the organization’s involvement in the Nutrition Incentive Hub includes collaboration across departments including the Training and Technical Assistance team and the Communications department. 

Webinar slide introducing presenters for “Match the Market: Adapting Nutrition Incentives to Various Outlets” webinar

Through our part in the national Nutrition Incentive Hub, we highlight the important role farmers market operators play in increasing local food accessibility through nutrition incentive programs. Throughout the year, we were able to share 11 webinars with over 2,700 registrants.  Webinars with topics ranging from sharing market operators’ knowledge and experience in implementing community based outreach and relationship building to orchestrating drive-through markets to ensure SNAP customers were able to access local food while staying safe, were evidence that market operators play a critical role in food access and that farmers markets are essential. 

2020 Webinars:

In addition to offering webinars that highlighted the role of market operators in incentive programs, the Farm Direct Team facilitated technical assistance for active and aspiring GusNIP grantees working with farm direct outlets like farmers markets, farm stands, and CSAs. Requests were passed on to Ecology Center and MIFMA, who, in 2020,  provided 83 hours of direct one-on-one technical assistance around subjects like EBT point of sale technology, creating welcoming environments, reporting & evaluation, grant administration, and grassroots outreach. 

Though the term “nutrition incentives” has only recently been rising in use, farm direct operators have been working in the nutrition incentive field for a long time.  Over the last year, FMC collected and organized over 200 resources created by farm direct experts.  In 2021 we plan to develop a Farm Direct Incentives Guide Site, which will house a nutrition incentive resource library with resources appropriate for the farm direct sites working with GusNIP grantees. This site will be a way for farm direct practitioners interested in starting or expanding a SNAP incentive program to easily access resources developed across several states and different program models.

While FMC was collecting resources for the farm-direct resource library, the need for updated technology resources was solidified. As the former provider of the free EBT machine program, FMC has a breadth of knowledge on EBT point of sale technology in farmers markets and created many resources that market operators found useful when selecting the device that would work best for them. Our Farm Direct Technology Manager, Katie, has quickly picked up where FMC left off 3 years ago by reaching out to market operators to hear their challenges, successes, and needs around EBT and incentive technology. Katie has been developing a decision making guide for market operators with questions to consider as they are selecting the device that works best for them.

Through our involvement in the Nutrition Incentive Hub, FMC also hopes to contribute knowledge from farm-direct experts to the field of nutrition incentives. Therefore, we set out to work with five different authors to share their journeys with incentives work in their communities through three Practitioner Papers. These papers are still in progress, but the team hopes to release them early in the new year. Here’s a teaser of what’s coming!

  1. Origin of Incentives: This paper is written by Richard McCarthy (Think Like Pirates) and explains one practioner’s take on the creation and rise of nutrition incentive programs in farmers markets.
  2. WIC Incentives: Written by Erin Molnar (Countryside Food and Farms) and Amanda Osborne (Ohio State University), this paper discusses two pilot programs in northeast Ohio that incentivized voucher and coupon programs other than SNAP that are often used by SNAP recipients.
  3. State Funding for Incentives: Molly Notarianni (Farmers Market Fund) and Elizabeth Borst (Virginia Fresh Match) write about their journey to pursue state sponsored funding for their SNAP incentive programs.

Looking Forward 

FMC is feeling inspired by the resiliency of farmers markets. We are hopeful that the national realization that farmers market operators are essential will continue to rise and with it, the support needed to implement and manage successful nutrition incentive programs in farm direct outlets. The FMC GusNIP team is excited to continue working with the Nutrition Incentive Hub to provide training and technical assistance to GusNIP grantees and the farm direct sites they work with. 

In 2021 FMC, Ecology Center, and Michigan Farmers Market Association will be focusing on four main areas of work through the Nutrition Incentive Hub: 

  1. Developing resources for farm-direct sites and GusNIP grantees. In addition to the  farm-direct resource library mentioned above, the team will create a curriculum for grantees working with farm-direct sites and an anti-racist toolkit for farmers markets. 
  2. Strengthening our understanding of farmers markets’ needs around EBT and incentive technology and using that knowledge to create resources and increase advocacy to state and national players.
  3. Diving deep into a more holistic approach to technical assistance with three GusNIP grantees in Oregon, Louisiana, and Montana. This approach is designed to provide opportunities for the Farm Direct Team and other TA providers within the Nutrition Incentive Hub to identify needs and challenges early, connecting grantees with the resources and assistance needed to solve problems before they arise.
  4. Sharing more about the work we are doing with nutrition incentives through FMC’s social media, blogs, and conference presentations. Check out our list of presentations that FMC staff is ready to present at your convenings (virtual or not) in 2021.

Is your organization passionate about increasing access to fruits and vegetables through nutrition incentives? The GusNIP Request for Applications is now open!