The local food movement has brought fresh produce to more convenient, affordable gathering places through farmers’ markets. Not only do farmers’ markets strengthen local food systems and stimulate the local economy, they connect low-income families with fresh, healthy local food options. As more markets are finding the means to accept federal nutrition benefits, such as SNAP/EBT, WIC, and Senior FMNP, the new challenge becomes reaching these customers and promoting the market as a favorable shopping experience.

Bonus nutrition incentive programs encourage people to seek out affordable, local, healthy foods and are structured to improve the purchasing power of low-income families at farmers’ markets. Markets can fund these incentive programs through community donations, match programs, business sponsorship, and grants. They can give farmers financial boost, draw an expanded customer base, benefit the local economy, and build a sense of community.

Photo courtesy of Community Farm AllianceDouble Dollars

The Double Dollars Program incentivizes customers to buy more fruits and vegetables at the market by matching the value of a customer’s federal nutrition benefits when used to purchase fresh, local produce. Farmers’ markets match SNAP, WIC or SFMNP benefits so customers can spend double the amount on fresh produce. This increase in buying power stretches a SNAP budget and encourages shoppers to spend more of their monthly funds on fresh produce from the market.

sfppicKY Kids Eat – Summer Meals

The USDA-supported KY Kids Eat summer meals program provides kids 18 and younger with free healthy meals when school is out. Any farmers’ market in an eligible area can partner with a sponsor and apply to operate a summer meal site. All that is needed is a safe, supervised seating area for children to eat meals together. The parents can shop for fresh foods while their kids get a healthy meal or snack prepared with foods straight from local farmers.

photo courtesy of Community Farm AllianceFarmacy

The Farmacy Program is meant to provide healthy foods to patients with dietary restrictions. Fruit and vegetable prescription programs empower healthcare providers to give families prescriptions redeemable for produce at farmers’ markets, grocery stores, and other healthy food retailers. Mountain Comprehensive Health Corporation (MCHC) is now writing prescriptions for fruit and vegetables to patients to be redeemed at the Letcher County Farmers Market in Whitesburg.

Health Bucks & Kids Bucks

Worksite wellness programs can provide staff and families with coupon vouchers or subsidized pricing redeemable at their local farmers’ market, called Health Bucks. Rewarding Kids can also be rewarded for participating in tasting activities or cooking demonstrations with coupons. These Kids Bucks help get children excited about fresh food and encourages families to buy produce at their local market.

Interested in seeing how to support and promote incentive programs within your community? Join your friends of farmers’ market! For a directory of Kentucky farmers’ markets and listing of participating markets in federal nutrition benefit programs, please visit the Kentucky Department of Agriculture.
Dangling the Carrot: Incentive Programs For Farmers’ Markets