MarketMatch Meets Food Stamp Shoppers Halfway
Crescent City Farmers Markets Match up to $25 in Food Stamp Purchases per Market Visit
Baskets of peak-season Creole tomatoes and tender okra aren’t the only sweet deal at the three weekly Crescent City Farmers Markets (CCFM) right now. Marketumbrella.org is once again matching SNAP (food stamp) purchases up to $25 per market visit at all CCFM locations, while supplies last, through its MarketMatch program. During marketumbrella.org’s Summer 2009 MarketMatch pilot, $10,000 in SNAP purchases were matched, resulting in a 600% increase in SNAP sales during the pilot and a 300% residual increase. The 2010 MarketMatch program is made possible by generous support from the Greater New Orleans Foundation’s Community IMPACT Program and the National Rural Funders Collaborative. Marketumbrella.org is the sponsoring non-profit for the CCFM, the first farmers market in the Deep South to overcome the food stamp digital divide back in 2005.
In 1993, US consumers spent more than $9 million in then paper food stamps at farmers markets. When the USDA introduced EBT (electronic benefit transfer) in 1996, "Farmers markets like our Crescent City Farmers Market found themselves on the wrong side of the digital divide," described marketumbrella.org Executive Director Richard McCarthy at a congressional briefing in June 2010 for the release of the Community Food Security Coalition's "Real Food, Real Choice: Connecting SNAP Recipients with Farmers Markets."
The CCFM's response to this digital divide, issuing wooden tokens in exchange for SNAP purchases (credit and debit too) with the aid of a wireless device, caught the attention of the USDA Food and Nutrition Services (FNS). In July 2005, one month before Hurricane Katrina, the CCFM hosted then FNS under secretary Eric Bost to see the system up close. "While crossing the digital divide enabled us to finally welcome food stamp shoppers to our Crescent City Farmers Markets, it wasn't until we were able to launch our MarketMatch incentive program that we began to see a significant increase in SNAP sales," states marketumbrella.org Director of Markets Emery Van Hook.
The CFSC report notes a nation-wide increase in SNAP sales at farmers markets. SNAP sales at farmers markets bottomed out at $1.6 million in 2007, but increased to $4.2 million by 2009. Although only 289 authorized SNAP retailers were classified as "farmers markets" according to the USDA in 2004, that number grew to 963 in 2009, and is projected to be over 1,100 nationwide. SNAP redemption at farmers markets grew (in dollar value) by 93.7% between 2008 and 2009 alone.
Marketumbrella.org is leading efforts to further increase SNAP sales at farmers markets with innovative conditional cash transfer programs like MarketMatch that encourage food stamp shoppers to purchase fresh, healthy, local food by meeting them halfway. Through MarketMatch, marketumbrella.org congregates shoppers, regardless of income level, around a shared love of food at its three weekly Crescent City Farmers Markets.
Crescent City Farmers Market: Uptown – Tuesday 9am-1pm, 200 Broadway St., at the River (Tulane University Square parking lot); Mid-City - Thursday 3-7pm, 3700 Orleans Ave., at the Bayou (American Can Apartments parking lot); Downtown Saturday 8am-12noon, 700 Magazine St., at Girod St. (Reily Food Company parking lot); all markets operate
year-round, rain or shine; For more information: crescentcityfarmersmarket.org or 504.861.4488.
Marketumbrella.org is a 501[c]3 nongovernmental organization based in New Orleans but operating globally to cultivate the field of public markets for public good. The organization utilizes its emblematic Crescent City Farmers Market as a platform for innovation, learning, and sharing with this growing field. For more information: marketumbrella.org or 504.861.4485.