Farmers Market SNAP Outreach: Tactics and Best Practices in West Virginia

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1 Farmers Market SNAP Outreach: Tactics and Best Practices in West Virginia

2 Farmers Market SNAP Outreach: Tactics and Best Practices in West Virginia Farmers markets can have a significant effect on local economies and health outcomes, especially for low-income individuals who may have limited access to fresh, healthy food. With the number of farmers markets in WV tripling in the past ten years (nearly 100 now!), opportunities for accessing healthy, local food are increasing. Despite the fact that about 30% of WV s growing markets accept SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits, very few benefits are utilized at farmers markets. Targeted outreach to low-income consumers, however, can increase SNAP use at markets, in turn increasing healthy food access. The following toolkit is designed to help market managers design dynamic, successful SNAP outreach campaigns for their markets. It grew out of a project of the Food Access Working Group, supported by the West Virginia Food & Farm Coalition, which provided mini-grants for SNAP outreach at markets around the state. The toolkit is based on the real-world experiences of farmers market managers who have successfully reached out to SNAP customers. What s the state of SNAP in WV? Over $490 million in SNAP benefits were distributed to West Virginians in 2013 (see page 7 for more details provided by Change the Future WV that highlight the benefits breakdown by county). SNAP recipients therefore represent a significant potential customer base for farmers markets. Nationally, however, only 0.74% of all authorized SNAP redemptions took place at farmers markets, and similarly low numbers exist in WV. The effect SNAP outreach has on SNAP sales at farmers markets The West Virginia Food & Farm Coalition supports four Working Groups of stakeholders from across the state that are working together to build our food and farm economy. One of these Working Groups the Food Access Working Group, which includes representatives from the WVU Extension Service Family Nutrition Program, WVDHHR, the West Virginia Farmers Market Association, and emergency food assistance groups, is dedicated to improving access to healthy local food. The Food Access Working Group conducted a series of pilot projects in 2012 and 2013, granting $1750 to seven markets for SNAP promotion projects to increase access to healthy, local food. The selected markets received assistance in promoting their outreach programs and tracking data to evaluate the success of their programs. Funding for the pilot was provided through BB&T and the McDonough Foundation. These were some of the outreach tactics used by the different markets, and their results: Barbour County Community Garden Market employed a SNAP match incentive, rewarding SNAP customers by doubling their SNAP dollars at the market. EBT sales increased from $216 to $393 (88%) over the previous year. Berkeley Springs Farmers Market, in its first year of accepting EBT, implemented a SNAP match program and saw EBT sales of $831 in just three months (over 1% of total sales). 2 WV Food & Farm Coalition

3 Calhoun County Farmers Market did print advertising and gave out a raffle ticket for every $5 in SNAP spent and saw EBT sales increase from $87.50 to $ (90%) over the previous year. Elkins Farmers Market held cooking demonstrations and family events at least once a month in order to draw new customers in. Family Activity Bags were handed out in order to encourage whole-family participation in market events. Morgantown Farmers Market implemented cooking education classes combined with additional produce for participants and saw EBT sales increase from the previous year from $676 to $1,901 (181%). Roane County hosted monthly SNAP Appreciation Days during which participants received produce goodie bags consisting of fresh local products including fruits, vegetables, and homemade baked goods and saw EBT sales of $ (1.1% of total sales). Wetzel County Farmers Market, in its first year of market operation, created banners, pursued print and radio advertising and partnered with local agencies to generate word of mouth sales. The first steps in receiving and promoting SNAP sales Step 1. Your market will need a SNAP/EBT machine to accept benefits. See for information on obtaining a machine and accepting benefits. Step 2. Identify diverse partners in your community that can be part of your marketing campaign or help raise funds to attract customers. Included is a list of partnerships that farmers markets in WV have contacted to further their outreach. Step 3. Use the tactics outlined below to devise a strategy that makes sense for your market. What to consider when working with low-income customers Many low-income individuals or families are in high-stress situations, may be juggling multiple jobs, and do not always possess reliable transportation. If their involvement is requested, it must be done in the context of meeting them where they are, keeping in mind time and financial constraints. Because many low-wage jobs do not offer the structure of a set schedule, planning around the hours a market is open make take time and attention. A common misconception is that farmers markets are only for wealthy or middle class people. Have a conversation about what customers would like to eat and prepare. Build trust, and frame discussions with SNAP recipients by being inclusive, for example, The goals of our market are to provide everyone in the community with fresh food that they can enjoy and afford. Farmers Market SNAP Outreach 3

4 The best tactics for attracting and retaining SNAP customers Successful SNAP outreach tactics at West Virginia farmers markets include providing SNAP match, maintaining a strong social media presence to grow word-of-mouth, and providing educational opportunities during the market. Raise money for and operate a SNAP match program. For every $1 of SNAP funds used, some markets raise funds to provide an additional $1 from the market, doubling the purchasing power of SNAP customers. Look to local businesses for donations. Match programs in Barbour County, Roane County, and Berkeley Springs were successful in driving SNAP sales in Use Social Media. Facebook and Twitter helped Berkeley Springs Farmers Market spread its message. Consider having a social media raffle prize where people are encouraged to comment, share, and like posts about SNAP use at your market. Free online tools such as com/random-name-picker/ help you choose a participant at random to receive a coupon, free grab bag of produce, or other incentive. More time-honored techniques include church bulletins, flyers, press releases, and community events publications. Work with volunteers or agencies to organize fun and educational classes at your market. Cooking lessons by a WVU Extension Nutrition Outreach Instructor (NOI) at the Morgantown Farmers Market brought new people to market and helped them feel comfortable questioning vendors about their products and ways to prepare them. SNAP recipients may not yet feel confident choosing vegetables or preparing them, but seeing food demonstrations can make a big difference. Consider hosting a cooking demo at a non-market site to increase interest and reach new populations. How to reach out to SNAP recipients Connect with organizations that do outreach to low income communities. Visit them on their turf to do a presentation or cooking demo to familiarize them with vendors and the market atmosphere. Brainstorm connections you have with these development organizations and groups such as Scouts and 4-H clubs that may be based out of lowincome housing complexes or have a significant percentage of low-income members. Check in with your local food bank or soup kitchen about setting up a display that clearly Reach out to specific populations of SNAP recipients. For example, the Fayette County Farmers Market has many SNAP participants that are AmeriCorps volunteers. If your region has a significant VISTA or AmeriCorps population, reach out to the area supervisor to help encourage members to frequent your market. Many community and civic groups organize projects around the holidays that consist of donating gift baskets or presents to low-income families. Coordinate with the program director to see if you can include coupons and SNAP program information in the donation packet. Make it as painless as possible for SNAP customers to spend their benefits. Avoid any processes or forms of tokens that may leave the SNAP recipient feeling isolated or singled out. Some markets across the country have found that their set-up was organized in such a way that discouraged low-income customers from returning. Make sure that the designated person operating the EBT machine is well trained on the mechanics and issues that may arise during the exchange process. Some market-goers have commented that they experience embarrassment when having to wait in long lines to use their benefits or are outed as a government assistance recipient. illustrates how the program works and advertises your incentive program. Community partners that market managers across West Virginia recommend: Target Specific Groups Partner with Organizations Agencies & Government Programs DHHR, WIC (Women, Infants, and Children, a supplemental nutrition 4 WV Food & Farm Coalition

5 program), Local Health Departments, County Extension, Family Resource Network, Economic Development Agency Civic & Religious Institutions Churches, Rotary Clubs, Chambers of Commerce, community foundations Poverty & Health focused Initiatives Community health clinics, food pantries, soup kitchens, nonprofits Community Hubs Community centers, coffee shops, community bulletins or calendars, public libraries, convention centers Local Businesses Car dealerships, medical practices, fitness centers Go to WIC classes. WIC programs provide classes on benefits coupons as well as nutrition education. Classes are an opportunity to get people engaged with farmers markets try Attend WIC Classes going to a few in a row to meet participants, get to know them, and chat about farmers markets and how fresh food can be made available in a way that works for them. Asking does someone you know have trouble getting food? can be a more successful angle than do you have trouble getting food? People are often quicker to respond when invited to look after others. You might even offer volunteer stipends to WIC class attendees to distribute and collect surveys about the farmers market or spread the word about it. Reach out to housing projects. Distribute flyers to everyone in the community with information about an incentive to come to market. For example, come on Saturday and bring this flyer to receive a free apple. If the market accepts SNAP/EBT, Senior Coupons, or other benefits, advertise it on the flyer. This tactic encourages people who already have a vague interest in the market, as well as boosting word of mouth advertising. Work with local churches. Deliver to Elderly Shut-ins Churches can foster participation by inviting volunteers to take turns picking up a donation from the farmers market for the food bank. This can lead to more conversations about fresh food access and how to engage people in the market. Offer a market goodie of the week for delivery to house-bound seniors. For example, some markets offer $5 senior bags of produce (grab bag of vegetables most people can use). A volunteer team from several local churches could help collect the produce, pack the bags, and deliver them. Food deliveries can be funded through wireless SNAP machine food stamps, or a local sponsor can be asked to pay for them. Mailing promotional postcards to SNAP recipients has led to successful marketing campaigns in some parts of the country. Keep in mind that language and literacy levels may vary and addresses and phone numbers may change frequently. How to make the market friendlier and more accessible to low-income customers Offer childcare. Organize kids activities or a supervised area where people can drop off their children for 30 minutes away from traffic. Local daycare programs may be willing to set up for free, because it is free advertising for them. Display visible, concise, picture-based instructions on how to exchange SNAP dollars for market tokens. Even people with excellent verbal and written skills can be put off or intimated by written directions. Make the process as easy and quick as possible. Verbally and informally ask for feedback about new customer s market experiences. Some low income-families face time and literacy constraints and may Offer Free Child Care not feel that their opinions are insightful or that filling out a survey is helpful to market organizers. The best way to figure out if your promotions are working and that your atmosphere is inviting is to simply ask costumers about their impressions. If you a desire a more in-depth assessment, keep questions Farmers Market SNAP Outreach 5

6 simple and short and consider asking a frequent market goer who is also a SNAP recipient to take the lead on passing out and administering surveys. Clearly promote the location, time, and type of products offered. Farmers markets across the country have identified one of the major barriers of attracting lowincome consumers: the new patron s lack of knowledge on market specifics. Ensure that location, day, and time are marked with easy-to-read and noticeable signage. Several farmers markets that accept SNAP have discovered that many would-be customers avoid the market because they place a high value on completing all of their shopping in one location. To attract these potential customers with time constraints, make sure to highlight the wide variety of products that are offered such as dairy, baked goods, and meats on your signage and in promotional materials. Even if your market does not have a diverse array of products, plainly indicate why the market produce is superior to conventional grocery store goods. Add more items that offer convenience. Some markets have seen success selling food kits such as a pizza kit that includes a pre-baked crust and a basket of vegetables that could be used to make sauce and toppings. Encourage farmers to partner with each other to design food kits. One example is collaboration between a beef vendor and a produce farmer to create a chili basket. Even if these are only occasional marketing offerings for special events, it will help new SNAP customers start thinking about making meals out of their market purchases by offering items similar to premade or packaged foods they may be feel more comfortable cooking. Questions to ask if your outreach and marketing isn t working Are you sharing pictures of your market on social media? Photographs should be paired with invitations, market dates, promotions, or calls to action. Social media is also a place to build the character of your market, make it personable and fun! Making the post interactive often garners more participation and results in higher views. Engage your audience with things to do such as photo contests or sharing recipes using market produce. If a customer gives a positive review of an item or shares a recipe with a vendor, ask them if you can mention their remarks on social media. Highlighting comments that community members make about market products helps spur word-ofmouth advertising, provides the market with testimony, and is likely to be shared on Facebook. Can you reduce financial barriers even more? SNAP outreach and advertising may be more successful if paired with SNAP match programs. Consider asking local businesses local Internet providers, local auto dealers, local hospitals, fitness centers, and others for donations. Does local infrastructure have information about your market to advertise? Possible outreach partners include County DHHR Offices, WIC clinics, SNAP-Ed staff, Farm to School AmeriCorps Volunteers, Extension agents, and Family Nutrition Program staff. Expand your promotion venues to include community hubs such as public libraries, web-based community events websites or calendars, churches, or your county Family Resource Network (FRN). Contact a local NOI as an ally. For a list of NOIs, see: instructors. 6 WV Food & Farm Coalition

7 SNAP Participation by County for 2013 County Cases Individuals Issuance per month Barbour 1,535 3,462 $371,641 Berkley 7,256 15,789 $2,181,297 Boone 2,688 5,775 $699,295 Braxton 1,537 3,330 $359,639 Brooke 1,475 3,160 $370,958 Cabell 9,591 18,605 $2,340,389 Calhoun 817 1,635 $174,501 Clay 1,400 3,070 $348,831 Doddridge 582 1,306 $149,823 Fayette 4,723 9,636 $1,137,070 Gilmer 518 1,127 $118,748 Grant 870 1,855 $205,639 Greenbrier 3,128 6,327 $740,434 Hampshire 1,987 4,410 $523,141 Hancock 2,189 4,694 $575,102 Hardy 1,093 2,442 $282,982 Harrison 4,890 10,501 $1,236,079 Jackson 2,599 5,789 $672,884 Jefferson 3,160 6,806 $854,511 Kanawha 15,904 33,385 $4,052,162 Lewis 1,744 3,664 $398,321 Lincoln 2,922 6,225 $746,251 Logan 4,484 8,772 $1,098,807 Marion 4,571 9,396 $1,178,135 Marshall 2,310 5,426 $642,930 Mason 2,767 5,938 $697,365 McDowell 4,107 7,941 $912,151 Mercer 7,573 14,999 $1,815,548 County Cases Individuals Issuance per month Mineral 1,974 4,130 $861,408 Mingo 4,001 7,865 $953,188 Monongalia 4,157 8,737 $1,069,793 Monroe 987 2,131 $249,051 Morgan 1,296 2,911 $360,046 Nicholas 2,971 5,913 $684,178 Ohio 3,398 6,501 $795,130 Pendleton 957 1,181 $121,902 Pleasants 459 1,005 $103,986 Pocahontas 676 1,429 $157,432 Preston 2,376 5,088 $582,557 Putnam 2,805 6,149 $741,028 Raleigh 7,732 15,797 $1,908,398 Randolph 2,831 5,797 $646,927 Ritchie 891 1,908 $208,348 Roane 1,650 3,745 $393,253 Summers 1,585 3,033 $334,992 Taylor 1,303 2,790 $313,551 Tucker 490 1,060 $108,101 Tyler 703 1,534 $159,783 Upshur 2,038 4,692 $530,511 Wayne 4,467 9,344 $1,052,775 Webster 1,468 2,880 $317,341 Wetzel 1,536 3,213 $354,846 Wirt 637 1,421 $158,854 Wood 8,548 17,817 $2,128,295 Wyoming 2,887 5,738 $651,085 Funding for this project was graciously provided by Farmers Market SNAP Outreach 7

8 West Virginia Food & Farm Coalition 411 Main Street, Mt. Hope, WV (304)

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