For many people facing hunger, shopping at a farmers market seems like a luxury. Luckily, many communities are providing ways to make local, healthy produce accessible for everyone. Programs that match Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits are an innovative way to help feed those in need, while supporting local farmers.
The SNAP match program in Seattle, called Fresh Bucks is in its third season. Fresh Bucks, a private-public partnership that provides up to $10 in matching vouchers to spend per market visit. In 2015, it is anticipated that all Seattle Farmers Markets as well as seven additional markets in South King County will be part of the program.
Last year, more than 4,000 participants used Fresh Bucks, receiving a total of more than $99,000; money that not only purchases nutritious produce, but also benefits local farmers and the economy. The program is successful in bringing SNAP clients to the farmers market, many for the first time, instilling a sense of community while supplementing a healthy diet. Seattle has one of the few programs where city government commits both staff time and dollars to these programs.
The Seattle Fresh Bucks program along with WSFMA and the Washington Department of Health were just awarded nearly $6 million over four years. The funds will expand SNAP match programs to 21 counties in Washington at both farmers markets and grocery stores including the participation of 168 Safeway stores and 86 Farmers Markets and CSAs. You can read more about the grant project on the Department of Health’s website.