Virginia Fresh Match: A Statewide Network to Help Farmers Markets Serve Low-Income Shoppers
Nutrition Incentives: Making Healthful Foods Affordable
“Nutrition incentives” are matching funds that help low-income shoppers buy produce. Currently in the form of tokens, incentives match the value of SNAP (food stamps) when spent at farmers markets. Because when low-income customers can afford produce, they buy it. That benefits them, the local economy, the environment and public health.
SNAP & Incentives in Virginia: An Enormous Growth Opportunity
Farmers markets are on the rise here, with 226 locations open in 2016, selling everything from peas to peaches. Half already accept SNAP.
Virginians spend over a billion dollars a year in SNAP, but only one tenth of one percent ($163, 000 in 2016) goes to farmers markets. Much of it goes to cheap choices like instant rice and noodles. When more SNAP money is spent on local produce, everyone benefits.
Since 2009, markets across Virginia have run their own incentive programs—many funded through a national non-profit called Wholesome Wave. Now Wholesome Wave is helping Virginia markets form a statewide network, called Virginia Fresh Match, to be at the forefront of growing incentive programs and applying for joint funding.
Funding Ends in March 2018: Next Investment Needed
SNAP & incentives sales at Virginia markets grew significantly in 2016; markets are positioned to continue this growth in 2017. Many of these locations receive federal funding for incentives through Wholesome Wave. But these funds last only through March 2018. Now it is essential that Virginia market operators together secure funding so these programs can continue. Virginia Fresh Match, aligned with the Virginia Farmers Market Association, is preparing to apply for a grant in 2017.
How can you get involved?
- Sign up for the Virginia Fresh Match Listserv to stay informed. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Visit the Virginia Fresh Match website: http://www.vfm.leapforlocalfood.org/
- Become a strategic, communications or funding partner.
- Help fund or support a position to lead continued development for Virginia Fresh Match.
- Connect Virginia Fresh Match to food access programs in your community.
- Advocate for Virginia policy to support a statewide fund or endowment for nutrition incentives.