Nourish Our Neighbors

Farmers Nutrition Incentive Program Soars Beyond Expectations

Group Seeks Private and Corporate Funding to Continue Wildly Successful Program– $20,000 Needed Immediately for 2013 Season

By DeLaura Padovan, King George Farmers’ Market Manager

Through the Farmers’s Nutrition Incentive Program, low-income families were able to double their purchasing power at regional farmers markets in 2012. But heading into the 2013 season, this regional farmers market coalition is in need of private and corporate funding to continue this successful community program.

The market coalition runs centralized credit card and SNAP/EBT (food stamps) card operations at the four regional markets, distributing market tokens as a service to vendors and a convenience to customers.

The four markets participating in the Farmers — Fredericksburg, King George, and two Spotsylvania farmers markets — generated token sales totaling $131,097 in 2012.

“This number more than doubles our combined 2011 token sales of $59,962,” reported Elizabeth Borst, Program Director and Manager for the Spotsylvania farmers markets. “By supporting low-income access and affordability, this program creates real impact for both SNAP families and local farmers.”

The Nutrition Incentive Program matches the first $10 of SNAP purchases each week, encouraging the use of federal nutrition benefits at farmers markets and helping to increase the consumption of healthy, fresh foods.

Building Economy Through Local Foods

Besides increasing access to fresh locally grown produce and increasing buying power of low-income families for fresh, healthy foods, the program creates new income streams for local farmers and supports city and county economies directly through tax revenues.

“It has been a banner year for our token program,” Borst said. ”But when you stop to realize that token sales account for merely 8 to 10 percent of total market sales, then you begin to grasp the enormous impact our local markets are having on the region’s economy, to the benefit of us all — especially the 65-plus farmers we serve.”

The success of the Farmers’s marketing efforts brought more than 100,000 shoppers to the markets in 2012, generating an estimated $1.5 million for the local economy.

“It’s simple,” said Wendy Stone, director of Fredericksburg Parks and Recreation, the agency that oversees the Fredericksburg farmers market. “By increasing access to locally grown fruits and vegetables and boosting the buying power of low-income families, they are eating healthier and our farmers are benefitting. It’s a win-win situation.”

Successful Outreach

Working cooperatively with Social Services Departments and other community organizations, the Farmers’s outreach efforts resulted in $20,542 of federal benefits flowing into the farmers markets in 2012. These benefits were matched with $13,820 in nutrition incentives.

These nutrition incentives have a remarkable impact on local families. A young mother of two says, “I think a lot of families would love to hear about the program for families that are on Food stamps; the extra $10 matching program at the farmers market really helps me with my quest to eat healthy.”

Regionally 19,170 individuals currently receive $2.5 million monthly in federal benefits. The Farmers dreams of capturing just 1 percent of those benefits to strengthen this region’s agricultural future.

Private and Corporate Sponsors Needed

For the 2012 season, a Specialty Crop Block Grant provided $10,000 in funding for the Farmers’s Nutrition Incentive Program, which was depleted by September. Spotsylvania and King George Departments of Social Services generously provided emergency funding to get the markets through the end of the season.

Seeking to raise $20,000 for the upcoming season, the coalition is making a public appeal to organizations and individuals in the local community who are interested in improving the health and economy of the region. “This program has such far-reaching implications and has been so successful that we’re hoping to have sponsors falling all over themselves to buy in,” said Stone.

We all have a stake in the success of the Nutrition Incentive Program. No donation is too small. Even a $10 donation will feed a family fresh fruits and vegetables for a week. Donations and/or corporate program sponsors are needed immediately.

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The Farmers Market.Co

  • Spotsylvania Farmers Markets
  • Fredericksburg Farmers Market
  • King George Farmers Market 

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