The Veggie Roundup Farmers' Market Coupon Project emerged out of a Lakes Region Food Network conversation about obtaining an Electronic Benefits Transfer terminal for the Thursday Laconia market, which would enable people receiving SNAP (food stamps) benefits to use those benefits at the market. Research indicates that many markets have low rates of participation by SNAP recipients, and we were unsure of the level of interest in our area. At the same time, we also know that Belknap County has a high number of low-income families who would benefit from greater access to nutritious fresh food. A member of our group suggested we do a simple pilot project to see what we could learn.
We started with a two week pilot program in September, 2013, thanks to a generous donor. Working with the local Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Nutrition clinic, and the Applachian Mountain Teen Project, $1000 worth of coupons were distributed. 57% were redeemed, an 18% higher redemption rate than the Farmers' Market WIC Coupon program achieved when it was available in NH. Though feedback was limited, those who responded indicated they were happy with the program and the products available at the market, and would participate again in the future.
Continuing our partnership with the local WIC clinic, we hope to expand the number of families participating in the coupon program this season, while gathering more extensive data regarding redemption rates. We are particularly interested in why families fail to utilize the coupons, in order to determine what other supports might need to be in place to increase redemption rates. We plan to bring the information we gather to the NH Department of Health and Human Services, with the goal of facilitating reinstatement of the Farmers' Market WIC Coupon program.
To learn more about how you can help Lakes Region families have more access to fresh local foods, click here.
Many thanks to our sponsors and cooperating agencies, including North Country Resource Conservation & Development Council (our fiscal sponsor), Belknap County Community Action Program/WIC program, Appalachian Mountain Teen Project, Frates Creative Arts Studio, Full Basket Co-op, Surowiec Farm, Winnipesaukee Woods Farm, Ramblin’ Vewe Farm, and Still Seeking Farm. Funding for the pilot project was provided by an anonymous donor who feels passionate about creating access to fresh fruits and vegetables for the families in our community! An additional thank you to Nicole Hogan from Creative Marketing Guru for the beautiful photos from last season's market!