In Spotsylvania, Virginia, a SNAP-Ed partnership led to increased redemption of SNAP benefits at local farmers markets! The partnership began in 2019, when an Eat Smart, Move More SNAP-Ed Extension Agent, with Virginia Cooperative Extension, started working with the Fredericksburg Food Access Forum. The Forum began as a networking group for organizations working to improve food access. Now, it is one of the Healthy Food Access Coalitions working toward several goals outlined in the Virginia Roadmap to End Hunger(PDF, 10.3MB). These goals include increasing SNAP and Virginia Fresh Match (a SNAP incentive program) redemption rates at local farmers markets and outlets.
In the Forum’s initial meetings, the SNAP-Ed Extension Agent worked with the local farmers market’s leadership to focus on increasing SNAP redemption. After completing the SNAP Self-Assessment Tool(PDF, 357KB), created by the Virginia Cooperative Extension’s Family Nutrition Program with three markets in their area, the SNAP-Ed Extension Agent started SNAP-Ed and food access outreach activities. These activities were designed to inform potential participants and community partners of nutrition education and policy, systems, and environmental (PSE) changes. Activities included:
- creating an online tour of the farmers market so new customers could easily find the EBT machine
- promoting the market’s EBT program and SNAP incentive program at other PSE change partner sites, including local Head Starts and food pantries
- working with the farmers market to create a written policy designed to welcome all shoppers including those using SNAP benefits
- training vendors on signage and pricing for SNAP shoppers
The collaboration between Virginia Cooperative Extension’s Eat Smart, Move More and farmers market partners has expanded over
the years. In 2022, the team onboarded 3 new markets, bringing the number of farmers markets that accept SNAP benefits up to 11!
• Vendor training on signage and pricing
• Food demonstrations of featured seasonal foods at farmers markets and nutrition education
• Changes to market policies
• Marketing the farmers market to local organizations serving SNAP participants and SNAP-Ed audiences
There were several lessons learned from their partnership. Here are the team’s top tips for collaborating with farmers markets on PSE changes:
- Work with partners to cross-promote other SNAP-Ed PSE programs and farmers markets. The team has been working with their Shop Smart, Eat Smart partner, the Fredericksburg Coop, who is also a Virginia Fresh Match outlet. The Coop shared marketing materials for the farmers markets in the area that accepted SNAP benefits.
- Find a market manager who is committed to improving food access. Market managers have many responsibilities and wear many hats so their commitment and engagement are essential to maintaining these efforts.
- Use the Farmers Market SNAP Self-Assessment Tool mentioned previously, or a similar tool, to identify any gaps and make improvements. If you find resources that are not referenced in the tool, please inform Meredith Ledlie Johnson, PSE Programming Coordinator (firstname.lastname@example.org), and they will be considered for inclusion in the assessment tool.