Federal grant to farmers markets supports low-income customers

The Freshfarm Dupont Circle farmers market features a variety of vendors. (Susann Shin/The Current/March 2017)

A coalition representing most D.C. farmers markets has been awarded a $250,000 federal grant to provide support for low-income customers.

According to a news release, the money will be used to double the purchasing power of SNAP recipients who buy fresh fruits and vegetables at participating farmers markets. Each dollar of locally grown produce bought with SNAP benefits will be matched with a dollar in “Fresh Match” rewards. These tokens can be used only to buy produce at 30 farmers markets that are managed by the coalition which received the grant.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive Program awarded the grant to a coalition of Freshfarm, Arcadia and Community Foodworks. The grant is being matched by a partnership among foundations, local government agencies and the private sector, for a total of $500,000 to be spent over three years.

“FRESHFARM, Arcadia, and Community Foodworks have a combined 19 years of experience in offering benefit incentives at farmers markets,” Jim McWhorter, the interim executive director of Freshfarm, said in the release. “By using this grant to create a unified matching program, we will make it easier for shoppers to use their nutrition benefits on fresh, healthy, local foods and maximize the buying power of low-income families in our community.”

Almost 60 percent of D.C. farmers markets are part of the Fresh Match coalition, which plans to expand to smaller and independent D.C. markets by 2020.