The first week of August 2021 marks the 21st annual National Farmers Market Week, an occasion celebrating the immense value farmers markets bring to local communities. Nationwide, farmers markets continue to fill a growing consumer demand for fresh and locally grown or produced foods including fruits and vegetables. This relationship is critical during a time when Americans face growing food insecurity rates driven by pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Many GusNIP-funded nutrition incentive projects actively work with farmers markets to increase the availability of fresh, locally grown 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 buying power of low-income families and individuals.
Additionally, GusNIP encourages expanded hours at partner locations like farmers markets to broaden accessibility of fresh, locally produced fruit and vegetables to low-income families. Simply put, more flexible hours help more people reach the foods that complement healthier diets. GusNIP farmers markets increase food access by being open more often, providing transportation or operating mobile markets, ensuring that shopping is convenient for working families.
GusNIP produce prescription grants partner with healthcare organizations to prescribe fruits and vegetables to low-income patients. These patients may fill their produce prescriptions from vendors, such as participating farmers markets or mobile markets, while reinforcing community ties and promoting health.
To ensure the greatest impact is delivered to low-income populations and share lessons with the broader nutrition community, GusNIP projects collect core metrics and participate in program evaluation. Partnerships with community-based fruit and vegetable sellers like local farmers markets are vital to the successes of nutrition incentive and produce prescription projects and thereby promoting healthier individuals and communities.