By Willie Heineke
The high price of fresh local food is a constant challenge across the country, and Prescott is no exception. High prices make buying local produce difficult for many families in our community. In 2012, Food Research and Action Center’s report “Food Hardship in America” ranked Arizona’s 4th Congressional District sixth highest for food hardship rates in Arizona. To address food insecurity, municipal and state governments, non-profit organizations, and private institutions across the country are creating and implementing new programs.
One increasingly popular solution is the creation of incentives for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, for short) recipients to buy local, fresh produce. For example the national 501(c)3 organization Wholesome Wave’s Double Voucher Coupon Program matches the value of SNAP dollars when recipients purchase local foods at participating farm-to-retail venues. This means that recipients can buy twice as much at a farmers market, increasing their purchasing power and making it possible to eat healthier while also supporting local agriculture. The city of Seattle also teamed up with a local non-profit organization to create a program that gives a bonus of ten dollars to each recipient when they use their EBT card at participating farmers markets.
Because these programs are relatively new, there isn’t a great deal of supportive analysis yet. However, several organizations running these types of programs have commissioned a report with the goal of quantifying the efficacy of these projects. And the results are in. …
The “SNAP Healthy Food Incentives Cluster Evaluation” has several notable findings. The programs, in general:
1) positively influence the local economy by keeping money within the community of local vendors and businesses, and
2) save and/or create jobs.
More than 75 percent of SNAP recipients reported that they have increased their purchase of produce because of the incentives and that SNAP incentives were a strong factor in their decision to shop at a farmers market. SNAP recipients have responded positively; in 2012 96 percent of SNAP incentives were redeemed.
Based on these findings, SNAP matches and double vouchers are a huge benefit to communities. Not only do SNAP recipients increase their consumption of fresh produce, but these programs also create strong local economies.
For more information about these reports or to learn more about SNAP incentive programs visit the Prescott Farmers Market’s Facebook page.
Willie Heineke is an AmeriCorps VISTA Summer Associate who’s serving with the Prescott Farmers Market.
For more information on the Prescott Farmers Market email Info@PrescottFarmersMarket.Org.