HealthDay News – An intervention to increase fruit and vegetable purchases at farmers’ markets for food assistance recipients correlates with a significant increase in use of food assistance at farmers’ markets, according to a study from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Farmers’ markets have been identified as a key strategy for rebuilding localized food systems and improving fruit and vegetable consumption among Americans. Although farmers’ markets have grown in popularity, low-income communities have not benefited as much as other communities with the expansion, said Darcy A. Freedman, PhD, MPH, and colleagues.
In order to examine the influence of a program to provide fruit and vegetables to food assistance recipients called Shop N Save (SNS), investigators analyzed trends at a farmers’ market located at a federal qualified health center in rural South Carolina.
As part of the program, SNS provided a $5 monetary incentive per week to customers spending $5 or more in food assistance at the farmers’ market. SNS was available to all customers using vouchers from the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP); the Special Supplemental Nutritional Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and/or the Senior or WIC Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (FMNP). Revenue trends were compared for 20 weeks before and after the program’s start.
Most of the 336 SNS participants were patients at the health center, female, and black. After the intervention, the use of all forms of food assistance (SNAP, WIC, FMNP) increased significantly at the farmers’ market, from 10% to 25% after (P=0.003). The greatest increases were seen for use of senior FMNP vouchers and SNAP.
“Interventions that provide incentives to recipients of food assistance programs at farmers’ markets are a viable strategy for increasing food assistance usage and revenue,” wrote the researchers.