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Farmers market matches winter purchases dollar for dollar

22nd January 2013   ·   0 Comments

By David T. Baker
Contributing Writer

Families participating in the Louisiana Purchase program can now get more for their money at three New Orleans farmers markets.

Market Umbrella, the non-profit organization responsible for the Crescent City Farmers Market (CCFM), has announced an expansion of its Market Match program. The program, which began in 2009 and was only available during the summer months, allows individuals participating in the Supplemen­tal Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, to use their Louisiana Purchase food stamp cards to make fresh food purchases at the markets, then the market matches that spending up to $20. That value is now available during winter markets.

According to Market Umbrella, in 2012 nearly a third of people buying goods using food stamps at the markets were first time shoppers, and claims that a 321 percent increase in SNAP purchases is due in large part to the Market Match program. A case study released by the organization did note that the erratic hours and locations of local farmers markets can be frustrating, along with the idea of healthy eating seeming intimidating for those in poverty.

“We strongly believe that shopping at farmers markets can help change people’s relationship with food…and that incentive programs can help bring about that change,” said Emery Van Hook Sonnier, Director of Markets and Interim Executive Director. “Now, in the winter Market Mat­ch, they can choose from winter greens and citrus.”

The expansion of Market Match coincided with the release of findings from the Healthy Food Incentives Cluster Evaluation, an analysis of incentive programs run by Market Umbrella, Fair Food Network, Roots of Change and Wholesome Wave. The nationwide study confirms that SNAP incentive programs at farmers markets increase fruit and vegetable consumption and boost local econo­mies. (Copies of the Healthy Food Incentives Cluster Evaluation are available at healthyfoodincentives.org.)

Sonnier says the challenge in getting SNAP recipients to the markets lies in outreach, citing difficulty getting the word out with such a small staff and because the shopping experience is so different from what people are used to.

The winter Market Match is being funded by a three-year grant from Louisiana Healthcare Connections to help expand access to healthy foods for SNAP recipients beyond just t he summer months.

“With childhood obesity in Louisiana the second-worst in the country, Louisiana Healthcare Connections is dedicated to providing communities with proven programs designed to educate and support a path to wellness through healthy foods,” said Jamie Schlott­man, President & CEO of Louisi­ana Healthcare Connections. “We’re thrilled to be supporting Market Match and look forward to helping expand its reach and impact.”

The Department of Children & Family Services for Louisiana reports that monthly benefits from the SNAP program are only a small portion of the food budget for low-income families. For a family of three with a maximum gross income of $1,640 per month the SNAP benefits are $367 a month; for a household of three with a maximum gross income of $2,069 per month, the SNAP benefit is $526.

The Market Match program hopes to ease the strain on family food budgets by providing them with additional dollars to spend on fresh, healthy food. “The goal is to bring in new shoppers to the market who may not have known that they can use their food stamps there,” said Sonnier.

The winter market match began on January 5 and is expected to run until the end of February. CCFM hosts three weekly markets in New Orleans: the Tuesday market takes place in Uptown Square at 200 Broadway St. from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.; the Thursday market takes place at the American Can in Mid-City at 3700 Orleans Ave. from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.; the Saturday market takes place in the CBD at 700 Magazine St. (at Girod) from 8 a.m. to noon. For more information about the farmers markets or the Market Match, visit www.marketumbrella.org.

This article was originally published in the January 21, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper

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