Farmers markets contribute to the health of residents by improving the availability of fresh, nutritious, and affordable food within the community. They connect producers and consumers, which not only allows for greater profits for farmers, but also allows the community to gain a deeper connection to and greater understanding of where their food comes from. Further, they provide chef demos, workshops, events and children’s activities that encourage health and wellness.
Our market was started with the belief that everyone in our community should have access to quality, nutritious foods. With 50% of our city’s population considered low-income, our market is located in the Morningside neighborhood, where income rates are the lowest; where over 80% of students at the neighborhood elementary school qualify for free lunch; and where there are no other markets or grocery stores in walking distance, making healthy food options difficult.
Last year we launched our Double Value Program- a money-matching program for low-income residents using SNAP, WIC and Senior FMNP benefits. Every dollar in benefits a mother spends, for example, she receives an equal amount in coupons — doubling her purchasing power.
The Double Value Program ran this year for just seven weeks and put over $16,000 worth of fresh food on the tables of families in need. That also means that the program put over $16,000 into the pockets of our local farmers!
The program also encouraged 127 members of our community to come to the market for the very first time. We hope they will become repeat customers!
The program has a real impact on our community. Here are some thoughts from a few of our farmers after we launched the program last season…
Ashley from Square Roots Farm:
“It’s always been really important to us to grow food for more than just that narrow slice of the community who often make up the local food customer base. The Double Value Program is an important way to widen the slice. It essentially makes all the food at the market half price, which makes that chicken or dozen eggs or pound of ground beef way more affordable and more competitive compared to supermarket prices. That’s good for us because it broadens our customer base, and it’s good for our Double Value customers because they are accessing healthier, higher quality food for an excellent price. We love the Downtown Pittsfield Farmers Market and the Double Value Program for the way they help us grow food for everyone!”
Kate from White Goose Gardens:
“As a local farmer I grow vegetables with the intention of providing fresh and healthy food to my immediate community. From my experience, the Double Value Program has drawn more community members to the market that would otherwise be hesitant to go. It not only allows nontraditional market-goers a healthy alternative to their grocery list, but increases the dependency on local farmers. The demand for my produce increased over the course of the 2015 season, which has prompted me to expand my production this year. I saw first hand how people were willing to try new foods, which I attribute to an expanded food budget from the double value program. I strongly believe that access to healthy food should not discriminate on socioeconomic factors. It is encouraging to know that this program aids in eliminating the economic barrier to eating healthy.”
Julia from Windy Ridge Farm:
“Our farm’s sales at the market went up dramatically the week that the Double Value Program started and stayed steadily busier than usual for the entire time funding lasted in 2015. As a farmer, there is nothing more satisfying than offering a child a cherry tomato that has never experienced the taste of an organically grown farm tomato and then sending them home with a box. This program puts fresh produce into the hands of those in our community who need it most.”
This program was made possible this year by the Seeds of Change Grant Program and sponsorship from Greylock Federal Credit Union, Berkshire Health Systems and Canyon Ranch.