Project SHARE and Farmers on the Square (FOTS) are entering their fourth year of collaboration on a program to assist and encourage recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and Senior (and/or) Farmers Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP/FMNP) benefits (all commonly known as food stamps) to provide additional fresh, healthful, nutritious food for their families.
Farmers on the Square strives to offer all members of our community access to fresh, healthy, nutritious, locally produced products. FRESH MATCH (previously known as Double Up Market Bucks) supplements food stamp dollars spent at the market with matching funds in order to improve accessibility of our farmers’ products for these patrons. Access to high-quality food is important from a public health point of view; in low socioeconomic status groups, the burden of diet-related diseases is disproportionately high. By promoting healthful, perhaps unfamiliar and arguably more delicious food choices, the program encourages individuals and their families to adopt positive, workable, diet-related behaviors.
The program also provides direct economic and social benefits to the region while encouraging a sense of community and shared connections; an overall healthier community! As any regular farmers market visitor knows, a good market is about more than buying food—it’s about striking up conversations, exchanging information, feeling part of a community and actively contributing to it. A public food market is one of the few places left for people of different economic classes to encounter one another, to absorb diverse attitudes and outlooks and even to grow together. Members of our community struggling with food insecurity can access produce and other foodstuffs at Project SHARE—our local food bank—once per month. They can also take advantage of the Project SHARE farm stand several times per week. However, the demand at those facilities is great, lines are long and choice irregular. Although a very important and valuable service, it can be a marginalizing, experience. FRESH MATCH affords recipients the agency to make their own food choices while integrated in a mainstream and very enthusiastic environment. Along the way, we are supporting small, local farmers and producers in a give and take that multiples benefit throughout our economic region.
This incentive program is modeled on similar programs that currently operate throughout the country and are strongly endorsed by the USDA. It can also serve as an example for other farmers’ markets in our region.
FRESH MATCH PROGRAM DESCRIPTION:
The goal of the FRESH MATCH market match program is to encourage Carlisle area food access recipients to take advantage of locally-grown fruits and vegetables and to provide additional fresh, nutritious food for their families. By promoting wholesome food choices, the program encourages individuals and families to adopt positive, sustainable diet-related behaviors. Offering an incentive that lowers the price of fresh produce helps shoppers stretch their food dollars while keeping their families healthy. In addition, we are supporting small, local farmers and producers while promoting values of community and of shared connections. Community support for the program is amply demonstrated by a remarkable 74% growth rate last season.
FRESH MATCH works to meet two principle goals: community and civic engagement and the promotion of a healthy diet leading to obesity prevention and better overall nutrition.
HEALTH AND WELL-BEING OF INDIVIDUALS
• By promoting healthful and flavorsome food choices, the program encourages individuals and families to adopt positive, sustainable diet-related behaviors.
• Access to high-quality food is important from a public health point of view; in low socioeconomic status groups, the burden of diet-related diseases is disproportionately high.
• Nutritional value and flavor sharply decline as time passes.
Produce purchased by necessity as cheaply as possible at the super warehouse, can be tired and lack flavor or interest. It is unsurprising that consumers familiar only with this level of quality, shun produce and prioritize sugar and salt for flavor.
Foods that have been sitting on grocery shelves, or in warehouses, or traveled long distances, suffer nutritionally on the way.
Foods grown to be shipped may be picked before they ripen and treated with more chemicals.
Local foods haven’t traveled so far and are fresher. If you’re buying at a farmers market, the produce has often been picked that morning. Furthermore, this produce will remain fresher longer at home.
• Costs can be higher at farmers market then at other establishments accepting SNAP program benefits.
The higher prices reflect a smaller scale of production and a substantially better quality of the food products available at the farmers market. Nonetheless, price is a significant barrier to consumers of lower socio-economic levels.
• Studies show that location plays a key factor when families lack access to transportation needed to get them to a market. FOTS is centrally located in one of the lowest income areas of Carlisle.
COMMUNITY AND CIVIC ENGAGEMENT
• The program encourages a sense of community and shared connections; an overall healthier community!
A public food market is one of the only places left for people of different economic classes to encounter one another, to absorb diverse attitudes and outlooks and even to grow together.
• FRESH MATCH affords recipients the agency and dignity to make their own food choices.
• FRESH MATCH integrates recipients into the mainstream of a shared community event; a wholehearted, generous environment.
• Along the way we are supporting small, local farmers and producers in a give and take that multiples benefit throughout our economic region.
• SNAP recipients using their Access benefits at the market can have the program match up to $20 additional funds per week to be spent on qualified market products.
• WIC and (S)FMNP checks can also be matched $10 benefit per recipient per week.
• Matching is accomplished via wood tokens redeemable only at Farmers on the Square.
• Established USDA rules regarding the types of food to be purchased with these benefits will remain in place.
• Program continues throughout the year as funding is available. FOTS is open weekly spring through fall and bi-monthly in winter.
• Based upon last summer’s data, a $2500 grant will serve 331 participants (and their families) over a 12-week summer period. At the peak of the 2015 peak season, the program aided 40 families weekly.
• Farmers on the Square is 100% volunteer based. All funds allocated towards DUMB are transferred directly to program participants (except for a small amount for printing costs), maintaining the program’s priority to alleviate food insecurity in the Carlisle area and the greater Cumberland Valley.
• Funding for the program is sourced via local grants and donations. Farmers on the Square will manage this aspect by pursuing available grants, soliciting local donations and run fund drives at the market. FOTS will not be requesting funding directly from Project SHARE but will require SHARE’s assistance as necessary to submit grant proposals.
• The program benefit dispersal is overseen by the paid market manager.
• Data collection, fund expenditure tracking, and grant reporting is managed by the Farmers on the Square treasurer.
• Farmers on the Square will submit regular reports to Project SHARE on the progress of the FRESH MATCH program.
• The project is to be overseen by Project SHARE as necessary to submit reports to granting agencies.
• Consumers eligible and served by this program are SNAP/WIC/FMNP/SFMNP recipients.
• 803 recipients (and their families).
• Average number of customers (and their families) served per week: 29. (40 at peak season.)
• 93% increase number of recipients.
• 54% increase in SNAP sales.
• 74% increase in total dollars matched.
• 37% increase in FMNP check redemptions at FOTS
vs. 1% increase in FMNP check redemptions for Cumberland/Perry Counties.
• 7.5% of all FMNP checks redeemed for Cumberland/Perry Counties were redeemed at FOTS.
• Raised and expended $6345 in match money.
Yielded approximately $12,600 in total EBT sales, match sales, WIC/FMNP food stuffs
for our clients and equivalent sales for our small, local farmers.
• Employing the match program, an average SNAP recipient:
Spends $15.71 of her SNAP funds at FOTS
Receives $30.50 in wholesome and flavorful food weekly.
• An average WIC/(S)FMNP recipient:
Spends an estimated $5.10 in WIC/FMNP checks at FOTS
Receives $10.20 weekly.