Farmers’ Markets and Nutrition

“Maine Harvest Bucks” are nutrition incentives offered to shoppers who use SNAP benefits at a variety of sites around Maine. The program provides bonus fruits and vegetables to those shoppers, putting more local produce on the tables of Maine families. MFFM operates the program for farmers’ markets. The following slideshow gives an overview of the project in the context of nutrition education. Below are comments from market farmers, submitted as part of a March 2017 MFFM survey.

“SNAP-Ed gets shoppers that are not accustomed to farmers’ markets through the door. Without the education I know that many would not try the market, even if they had the Harvest Bucks to use. We had one family that was very clear about how the program worked and how she could get the best bang for her bucks so that she could provide her kids with healthy food. Having her kids at the market with her also gave them an opportunity to sample vegetables and enjoy them more when she served them on the table. MHB, SNAP-Ed, the famers’ market and a family’s kitchen table complete a whole picture of healthy living and changing mind sets.

“Parents and kids get very excited about trying new vegetables and learning how to cook them. I have found that the market that I have done that has a high number of SNAP shoppers and that offers a SNAP-Ed program has shoppers that are more nutritionally motivated in their purchases than at other markets.

“At the market with SNAP-Ed and Maine Harvest Bucks we are shifting the way people think about and prepare food. People with lower incomes are making healthier choices, which ripples down to their children and helps break a difficult pattern in our society.”

“The SNAP-Ed program is very important. It gives consumers lifelong nutritional education that directly contributes to their health and well being.”

“SNAP education at farmers markets, to me, is the best of all worlds. You get families attending, you’re educating children as well as adults and parents, you are in the public, so no appointments necessary, and you can get their time and attention for education, whereas it is very limited if education happens at the food pantries. Education is number one to healthy living!”

“I think people who receive SNAP generally understand the nutritious benefits of fresh fruits and vegetables. Mostly, it’s not that they don’t know how to cook it, what to use it in, etc.. that keep low-income families from eating those foods. It really is about money, time, and priorities.”

“Yes, tying the education to the purchasing is huge. The tours make customers feel more comfortable shopping and the cooking demos make customers feel more confident in their purchases.”

“When shoppers taste and learn how to prepare in season vegetables they are more likely to redeem their Harvest Bucks.”

“While most Harvest Bucks distributed at our market are redeemed, a significant percentage are not, which indicates to that there are indeed shoppers who aren’t sure how to incorporate extra produce into their meals.”

“Give someone a box of pasta and they eat it and it’s gone. Give someone lessons on how to shop at market, use their SNAP/EBT, take advantage of Maine Harvest Bucks, and then on top of that teach them how to use that food to make delicious, nutritious meals – then you’ve taught them a skill that could last a lifetime, one that they can share with their friends for no additional cost, and one that contributes to an overall increase in the health and wellness of Maine people.”