Farmers’ markets: local partners in the field of nutrition incentives
The first week of August 2021 marks the 21st National Farmers ‘Market Week, an opportunity to celebrate the immense value that Farmers’ Markets bring to local communities. Nationally, farmers’ markets continue to meet growing consumer demand for fresh and locally grown or produced foods, including fruits and vegetables. This relationship is critical at a time when Americans face rising rates of food insecurity due to pressures from the COVID-19 pandemic.
NIFA’s Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program (GusNIP) partners with farmers markets, farm stalls, community-supported agriculture and mobile markets by offering incentives for fruits and vegetables . GusNIP brings together food and health systems stakeholders to improve the nutrition and health of participants.
Many GusNIP-funded nutrition incentive projects are actively working with farmers’ markets to increase the availability of locally grown fresh produce available for purchase using SNAP benefits. This includes the expansion of dollar matching programs such as “Double-Up Food Bucks Mississippi” and “West Virginia’s SNAP Stretch”. Programs like these increase the purchasing power of low-income families and individuals.
In addition, GusNIP encourages increased opening hours at partner sites, such as farmers’ markets, to expand the accessibility of locally produced fresh fruits and vegetables to low-income families. Simply put, more flexible hours help more people consume foods that complement a healthier diet. GusNIP’s Farmers’ Markets improve access to food by being open more often, providing transportation, or operating mobile markets, ensuring that shopping is convenient for working families.
GusNIP produces prescribing grants in partnership with healthcare organizations to prescribe fruits and vegetables to low-income patients. These patients can fill their prescriptions for products from vendors, such as participating farmers’ markets or mobile markets, while strengthening community ties and promoting health.
To ensure that the greatest impact is delivered to low-income populations and to share lessons with the wider nutrition community, GusNIP projects collect baseline measurements and participate in program evaluation. Partnerships with community fruit and vegetable vendors, such as local farmers’ markets, are critical to the success of nutritional incentive and prescription production projects, thereby promoting healthier individuals and communities.