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Partnering to Promote Food Security - Virginia Fresh Match

Jun 17, 2022

Summary
Across Virginia, SNAP-Ed helps promote SNAP match programs at SNAP-accepting farmers markets. To do this, Virginia SNAP-Ed formed a partnership with Virginia Fresh Match and the Virginia Farmers Market Association. These collaborations contributed to increased sales and SNAP redemption at farmers markets. 

Challenge
Farmers markets, mobile markets, and farm stands can play an important role in promoting food security and population health. This is done particularly through the purchase and consumption of fruits and vegetables. In addition, these markets and stands provide a revenue stream for food producers. Yet, SNAP-eligible individuals report several barriers to shopping at farmers markets including: 

  • convenience
  • affordability 
  • unfamiliar environments
  • a lack of understanding of if and how SNAP benefits can be redeemed at farmers markets

Solution
Virginia Fresh Match, Virginia Farmers Market Association, and Virginia SNAP-Ed partnered together to provide expertise, technical assistance, and resources matching their organization’s mission and capacity. The goal was to increase sales at farmers markets and address consumers’ barriers. 

  • Virginia Fresh Match (VFM), funded by USDA GusNIP, an established statewide network of farmers markets and food retail stores, provide point of purchase nutrition incentives for fruits and vegetables for SNAP shoppers. This includes double-match programs at participating farmers markets.
  • The Virginia Farmers Market Association (VAFMA) offers ongoing technical assistance and support to farmers market managers. This is provided to through email communication, information posted on the website, and webinars. The VAFMA serves as an information portal, conveying information on Virginia Fresh Match, Virginia SNAP-Ed, relevant legislation, and other important resources.  
  • Virginia SNAP-Ed: 
    • coordinates a social marketing campaign on how to use SNAP benefits at farmers markets and how to increase purchasing power through the SNAP match program. 
    • provides food demonstrations for farmers market partners, showing customers how to use fruits and vegetables.  
    • provides information on farmers markets in adult nutrition education programs.

Sustaining Success
Several positive outcomes were noted from this collaborative effort. In 2021, over 90 food outlets participated in Virginia Fresh Match, supporting 550 Virginia farmers. Between Virginia Fresh Match and SNAP, over $1.3 million was estimated to be invested in local communities in 2021.  Several farmers markets saw dramatic increases in the amount of SNAP incentives redeemed and participation in Virginia Fresh Match:

  • The LEAP Mobile Market: 281% increase in SNAP redemption
  • Grandin Village Farmers Market: 226% increase in SNAP redemption
  • Abingdon Farmers Market: 88% increase in SNAP redemption
  • Central Virginia Farmers Markets: 69% increase in VFM

“Not only has the matching program greatly impacted market customers, but it has also allowed vendors to continue to make sales and prosper during this economically difficult time. This season, 20% of vendor sales came from incentive programs at our markets. We are grateful to be able to offer a VFM program at our farmers markets because not only does it make our markets and local food more accessible, but it supports our local growers and economy.” — Waynesboro Market Manager

Additionally, 70% of SNAP shoppers ate more fruit while using Virginia Fresh Match incentives, 69% ate more vegetables, and 85% said that the match program helped their food last when they did not have money to buy more. 

“As a single mother with no income, if they didn’t do this and supply the match, we’d go hungry. We moved in with my mom and that takes care of housing, but I am still responsible for providing all the essentials for myself and my children. It helps so much. Without WIC, SNAP and the match, I would not have been able to make ends meet.” — Spotsylvania Farmers Market Shopper


Contact Information
Meredith Ledlie-Johnson, PSE Coordinator, Virginia SNAP-Ed, phone (540) 231-8541

Eat Smart Move More Virginia Cooperative Extension, Family Nutrition Program, www.eatsmartmovemoreva.org