Farmers Markets as a Strategy to Improve Access to Healthy Foods for Low-Income Families

According to a recent study on farmers markets across the nation, the top three consistent reasons why low-income families did not use the local market were because they were not aware of the open market hours, were unaware of the location, and were unable to complete all of their shopping at the farmers market. Effective outreach and marketing could go a long way to overcome these barriers. Information is key, which is why the Downtown Fond du Lac Partnership, Living Well FDL, and FoodWIse UW-Extension have partnered for nearly five years to create a farmers market experience that is inclusive to all in Fond du Lac County. Programs that have been implemented include, but are not limited to:

  • Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) – the electronic payment system for debit cards that are issued for the SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program)
  • EBT Match Days – an incentive program for FoodShare customers to double (or match) up to $10 on select market days
  • Veggie Rx Program – healthcare prescriptions for local, fresh produce at the farmers market
  • Fondy Fresh Five – linking fresh market produce with the food pantry community (currently under construction)

In addition to the programs implemented, the farmers market was awarded the “Farmers Market SNAP Support Grant” in 2015. The grant’s purpose is to expand SNAP (Wisconsin FoodShare) participants’ access to fresh fruits and vegetables and other nutritious foods found at farmers markets, while supporting the local farmers and producers by bringing FoodShare dollars back into the local economy. There will be a special emphasis on promoting and increasing access to Hispanic/Latino and Hmong consumers. These videos are a highlight of just some of the marketing/educational products created: EnglishSpanish  ~  Hmong

In the first year of the grant, the focus on marketing to FoodShare customers was successful. There was a 23% increase in the number of EBT transactions and a 21% increase in the total dollar value of EBT transactions. There was also an increase in the number of EBT eligible vendors.

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