DC’s Farmers Markets Awarded Grant to Make Fruits & Vegetables More Affordable for Low-Income Families

farmers market

A coalition including FRESHFARM, Arcadia, and Community Foodworks has been awarded a $250,000 grant from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) program. The partners, private foundations, local government agencies, and the private sector are matching those funds, for a combined $500,000 to be spent over three years. This is the first time that USDA has awarded a FINI grant in Washington, DC.

Through the FINI grant, low-income individuals and families who participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps) can double their purchasing power when they spend their SNAP benefits at participating farmers markets to buy fresh fruits and vegetables.

Shoppers can use their SNAP benefits at farmers markets with state-issued electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards. Under this grant, every SNAP dollar spent on locally grown produce receives an additional dollar in “Fresh Match” rewards. Fresh Match tokens can only be used for fruits and vegetables at any of the 30 farmers markets managed by this coalition of partners.

This grant “means I can afford fresh vegetables. It is just like medicine for me,” said Yvonne Smith, a senior citizen and an Arcadia Mobile Market regular customer, who doubles her $30 monthly nutrition benefits with the Fresh Match program. “Using matching dollars enables me to eat healthier.”

The three organizations participating in the FINI grant are leaders in the local food movement in Washington, DC. This effort will include at least 26 farmers markets, with 30 farmers participating, and a total of more than $275,000 in food incentives redeemed and distributed.

“FRESHFARM, Arcadia, and Community Foodworks have a combined 19 years of experience in offering benefit incentives at farmers markets. By using this grant to create a unified matching program, we will make it easier for shoppers to use their nutrition benefits on fresh, healthy, local foods and maximize the buying power of low-income families in our community,” said Jim McWhorter, the interim executive director of FRESHFARM.

“Our coalition believes that all people, regardless of income, have the right to enjoy the benefits of farmers markets in their communities as well as consuming fresh, local produce,” said Community Foodworks executive director Hugo Mogollon. “This program will help build profitable, diverse, and resilient markets in areas of the city with limited fresh food access. Furthermore, this partnership increases opportunities for local farmers to diversify their revenue streams while continuing our overarching focus on increasing access to locally-produced food for all Washingtonians.”

“The FINI program makes high-quality, wholesome foods more affordable, which we believe is critical to helping people get healthier, particularly those with limited resources,” said Pamela Hess, executive director of the Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food & Agriculture.

The Fresh Match coalition makes up nearly 60% of the farmers markets in all of Washington, DC. In addition to offering Fresh Match at their own markets, the coalition partners plan to roll out a program to make Fresh Match available to smaller and independent markets throughout the city by 2020.

Comments are closed.