2021 Saw Positive Growth and Innovative Approaches
In 2019 RAFI-USA, in partnership with Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina, launched the Double Bucks Incentive Program at six Triangle-area farmers markets and five rural farmers markets across North Carolina. This program doubles the buying power of EBT and WIC FMNP purchases as well as matches cash purchases from WIC clients and Section 8 Housing residents. Since launching in 2019, the program has seen tremendous growth. Now closing out its second year, a total of 4,910 customer transactions have resulted in $212,389 worth of food purchased by food insecure shoppers.
The five rural markets that joined the program at the start of 2021 have seen a combined $20,007 in Double Bucks incentives redeemed at market. Stanly Commons Market in Albemarle saw huge success with the program, especially with senior FMNP matching. In just three months the market matched more than $2,000 worth of Senior FMNP vouchers. Stanly Commons worked in partnership with Meals on Wheels to deliver vegetables to 30 people on a market day. Morganton Farmers Market saw a 258% jump in incentive redemptions when compared to 2020 when they offered a more limited program.
The Triangle markets also experienced tremendous growth in Double Bucks redemptions this year. The Durham Farmers Market’s Double Bucks program, which predates the launch of the 2019 kick-off, has seen a 171% increase in Double Bucks redemptions since 2018. The Carrboro Farmers’ Market piloted a pop-up market at a local health clinic where people could pick up their WIC FMNP vouchers. The market was conveniently held in the parking lot of the clinic. Farmers weighed and bunched produce out to $5 values, the amount in which vouchers are issued. Double Bucks markets plan to implement similar markets in 2022.
Combined, the markets have seen a 64% increase in Double Bucks redemptions between 2020 and 2021 and market shoppers spent an average of $29 from their EBT per market.
In 2015, in partnership with the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust, RAFI-USA launched the Fresh Bucks consumer incentive program which doubles the buying power of EBT shoppers at participating farmers markets. In 2016 and 2017, more markets joined the Fresh Bucks program, and returning markets saw dramatic growth. RAFI-USA expanded the Fresh Bucks program in 2019 through funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) grant program.
Since 2019, 11,603 in recorded customer transactions have occurred, resulting in $84,475 worth of additional food purchased by food insecure shoppers. Fresh Bucks offers a unique opportunity for markets to partner with market-goers who shop with EBT. Shoppers work as SNAP Ambassadors on behalf of the market for extra Fresh Bucks. SNAP Ambassadors help promote the program to the community and educate the community on the program. Markets that have sought out SNAP Ambassadors have seen an increase in Fresh Buck redemptions. Windsor Farmers Market in Bertie County has seen a 149% increase in Fresh Bucks redemption after partnering with a SNAP Ambassador.
Combined Fresh Bucks markets have seen a 197% increase in Fresh Bucks redemptions since 2019. Additionally, 11,603 in customer transactions have occurred within the program resulting in $84,475 spent with market produce vendors.
Both the Fresh Bucks program and Double Bucks program prove that SNAP incentives drastically increase farmers market transactions and farmers market sales. When these programs are supported and word of them spread widely, community members come to support their local farmers markets and enjoy the offerings, as the following quote from a Double Bucks participant demonstrates:
“This market is a necessity for my family, I didn’t realize it. I thought it was just something fun to do on Saturday morning and when my life got really busy, I stopped coming for like four or five weeks. We just felt like shadows of ourselves, our meals were empty, lacking in life. The flavor was lacking, the nutrition was lacking. All that science can explain it, but at the end of the day [the meals] just didn’t have that substance that makes us feel alive. My kids were saying ‘Why aren’t we going to the market?’ They noticed and they’re only 8 & 11 [years old]. I realized I have to get this fresh produce and it’s so fun meeting the people that grow everything. And the quality is nothing that you can compare with the store and the fact that I can get the Double Bucks means that I can base all my meals around this [farmers market] and instead of adding a little here and there, I can make this my main shopping and any other shopping that I do complements this.”