Farmers markets are for everyone! Here's what we are doing to reach them.
When it comes to sticks and carrots, we prefer carrots. Since 2008, we have increased the use of the Farmers Market Nutrition Program and SNAP at the Crescent City Farmers Market by deploying Conditional Cash Transfer strategies: farmers market incentives. Our incentives are modeled after well-known government conditional cash transfer programs — federal and municipal — aimed at developing human capital of vulnerable households. Mexico's Oportunidades has resulted in a lower prevalence of obesity. Brazil's Bolsa Familia, Nicaragua's Sistema Penitenciario Nacional, and the USA's Opportunity NYC (a conditional cash transfer program implemented in New York City to increase school attendance and performance, and timely child immunizations and doctors visits) are all influential examples of conditional cash transfer strategies.
Our innovation is the product of lessons learned operating farmers markets. Interested in bridging social capital, we use existing networks to strengthen transactions. Social capital has been looked to by some in the World Bank as the missing link in development. We plan to demonstrate that social capital and incentives for behavioral change are keys to creating successful programs that move towards a new era of social policy innovation. Here are a few ways we use incentives at our family of markets.
Food stamps & bridging the digital divide:
In the 1930s, USDA designed the Food Stamp program to "feed two birds with one crumb": By offering cash benefits to hungry families, struggling farmers gained new markets for their goods. Just think how complex our world has grown since then! In the 1990s, USDA phased out its paper "stamps" for an electronic benefit transfer system (or EBT) whereby hungry families use something that works like a credit card. Unfortunately, USDA did not consider how this change would affect farmers who sell directly at markets. For over a decade, most markets have been locked out of the EBT business. At the Crescent City Farmers Market we have addressed this digital divide by devising a scrip system with wooden tokens we call "Crescents." For EBT users, it's free and simple. All they need to do is visit the Market's Welcome Booth where our staff will turn plastic EBT into tokens.
The Marketeer Club | grows healthy kids ages infant to 14
Where will tomorrow's healthy eaters come from? How will children learn to interact with adults today? Learn responsibility? We believe that our market is great place to teach healthy habits and good values. It may also be the first time that a child discovers that carrots not only come from underground but that real families with names harvest them. For these reasons, we have launched the Marketeer Club at the Crescent City Farmers Market. Parents are encouraged to sign their children up for membership that awards them a $5 Crescent on their birthday to purchase healthy goodies at the Market. Membership is free. Members are also invited to participate in the special monthly Marketeer events. Membership forms can be found at the Welcome Booth or online.
market match | meeting shoppers halfway
At the Crescent City Farmers Market, we have launched Market Match to increase spending power of SNAP cardholders at our farmers markets. During annual three-month campaigns, we match up to $20 spent by SNAP cardholders. In 2013, we increased SNAP redemption rates by 300%. SInce 2008, SNAP redemptions have increased from four to 17 percent of credit/debit/benefit transactions.
meet me at the market | Let us make your first visit to the market memorable
For seniors who don't get out often, the Market is a breath of fresh air that brings back memories of youth. For kids, it's the first place many learn how hard working families produce the food we eat. We organize trips to the market to facilitate new visitors at the market. Meet me at the market is an outreach tool that combines lessons in local ecology, economy and community with the fun and excitement of the market.
farmers market nutrition program
The Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry funds a USDA program called the Farmers Market Nutrition Program. Working with Food for Families/Food for Seniors, LDAF issues $20 worth of coupons to vulnerable seniors. Working with the Louisiana Department of Health and Hopsitals, LDAF issues $24 worth of coupons to mothers enrolled in the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program. In both cases, vulnerable groups improve their nutrition by eating more fruits and vegetables they purchase at farmers markets with coupons. Farmers like it too. They earn money while contributing to the health of the community.
farmers market bingo
Nutrition education should be hands-on and fun. We have designed our own version of bingo to inform first time seniors how to make the most of the Market: from health considerations to the rhythm of seasonal eating. Our staff visits local communiuty centers or church groups to lead an afternoon of Farmers Market Bingo. By simply playing Bingo, seniors fill a condition for Senior/Farmers Market Nutrition Program participants to receive an additional $24 worth of Market Tokens (we call Crescents) as part of our conditional cash transfer strategy.
market match | Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program
We think the Farmers Market Nutrition Program directed towards kids and seniors is a great start, but it's not enough. To reward FMNP seniors who make healthy decisions, we have launched a pilot program, market match for seniors. Here's how it works: For seniors who a) play Farmers Market Bingo at their senior center and b) spend all of their FMNP coupons, we will add to their money by issuing free market tokens. With our currency, they may purchase any products at the market. In time we would like to expand this conditional program to kids and other vulnerable groups.