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Supporting SNAP Incentives at Farmers Markets

Today I had the good fortune to attend a press event hosted by Wholesome Wave. The event was an effort to encourage congressional leaders to support legislation that would provide federally funded nutrition incentives in the upcoming farm bill. The panel of experts at the event spoke passionately and compellingly about the benefits of continued robust federal funding. SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) is the former Food Stamp program.

Skowhegan, Maine farmer and Wholesome Wave partner, Sarah Smith, spoke plainly about the benefits of the SNAP program at the farmers market she runs. She indicated that over 50% of the folks in her region of Maine rely on SNAP benefits. Their ability to use SNAP at the farmers market and receive double value coupons through a Wholesome Wave program, means Maine residents eat healthier food, community is fostered, and small businesses (e.g., farms) increase revenue and reinvestment in the community.

Celebrity Chef José Andrés wholeheartedly agreed with Smith.  As a chef, he feels a responsibility to be “part of the conversation on how we are going to feed the many.” He stated that continuing federal funding of SNAP is a triple win — it supports small farmers’ ability to plant, grow and sell more; it provides healthy foods to curb the rising trend of obesity; and, it lowers health care costs from many obesity related diseases and conditions.

From the conversation today, it’s clear that federal support of SNAP incentives at farmers market is working. Need more proof? According to a Wholesome Wave survey:

  • In 2011, nearly 39,000 double value coupon program (DVCP) consumers purchased fresh, healthy produce from local farmers at partnering farm-to-retail venues, an increase from 20,000 participants in 2010.
  • 86% of DVCP consumers reported they ate more fresh fruits and vegetables and more than 90% said the amount of fresh foods they bought at the market made a big difference in their family’s diet.
  • On average, ¼ of total market sales at participating farm-to-retail venues were from DVCP consumers.
  • In response to increased sales, farmers expanded acreage/production, diversified products and added additional hoop houses or greenhouses.

In my backyard of Fairfax County, we’re working to pilot acceptance of SNAP benefits at our local farmers markets. This is especially critical for the low-income residents along the Richmond Highway (Route 1) corridor between Alexandria and Woodbridge.

The numbers don’t lie. Congress, don’t try to fix something that isn’t broken. SNAP incentives at farmers markets help small businesses grow and thrive, provide low-income Americans access to healthy food and lower health care costs.



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