Fresh Link Ambassador Program for Farmers Markets SNAP

In thousands of farmers markets across the U.S., different outreach strategies are being tested to increase the use of the EBT systems to have more SNAP shoppers using their benefits at markets. However, reports indicate that just having the machines and welcome signage is not nearly enough. One method to encourage low-income consumers to use their food assistance SNAP dollars at farmers’ markets is by offering a cash incentive that matches the benefits they spend at the market. The theory behind these matches is that many of those shoppers have higher barriers to using markets, including non-traditional work schedules and few options for transportation to the site. The incentive programs encourage newcomers and rewards regular visitors to the market, as the match is usually offered continuously. 

The combined strategy of offering a centralized card processing systems paired with cash and nutrition incentives has offset the cost of new or expanding production and tncreased the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables in food deserts, according to a 2010 report. Even with the incentive dollars matching SNAP transactions, many markets still report difficulty in reaching enough shoppers .

In Ohio, the FreshLink Ambassador model has been in a 5-year pilot to test if a peer-to-peer outreach to promote awareness of and social connectedness to markets works to increase farmers' market use among people receiving SNAP benefits. This model was tested at a number of farmers makets in Cleveland Ohio with results that show an increase of both new customers and SNAP use at their markets.The pilot saw a 13% redemption among those receiving the coupons, which is significantly higher than the redemption rates of most coupons. 

The Ambassadors were paid for their time, and able to set their own schedule. Those chosen had ties to the community, and were expected to:

  • Make referrals to farmers’ markets and explain use of Produce Perks
  • Share information about these programs at local outreach sites including Job and Family Service Sites, Food Pantries, Libraries, Rec Centers and more.
  • Provide a welcoming presence on site at participating farmers' markets.

If your organization is interested in learning more about the FreshLink Program resources, starting your own ambassador program, or would like more information on the research components of the project, please email the FreshLink Program Manager, Rachael Sommer. You can also reach her at 216-368-5774.

Learn more about this model on the Prevention Research Center's site.



Dar Wolnik