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$250k USDA grant will help increase SNAP purchases at SC farmers markets

AdobeStock_65288060_400U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded nearly $250,000 to a South Carolina group aiming to help increase the amount of SNAP dollars spent at the farmers markets. Spartanburg’s Hub City Farmers’ Market (HCFM), Eat Smart Move More South Carolina (ESMMSC) and the USC Center for Research in Nutrition and Health Disparities (USC CRNHD) say bringing more SNAP purchases to farmers’ markets will support local farmers, economies and public health.

“In Spartanburg, we’ve witnessed first-hand the benefits of making our farmers market SNAP-eligible,” said Brendan Buttimer, HCFM executive director. “We’ve grown our SNAP business by 800% in two years, and we’re on pace this year to more than double our SNAP sales.”

During phase one, project organizers will create a business model based on successes from HCFM and implement the model at two farmers’ markets – Travelers Rest in Greenville County and Johns Island in Charleston County. The two markets were chosen based on their staff and board support of SNAP at the farmers’ market and both are located in large population areas where farmers’ markets either do not accept SNAP or do not seek SNAP users.

market_logos“Farmers’ markets have an opportunity to play an important role in the health of all South Carolinians by accepting SNAP and providing fresh, affordable produce to the more than 52,000 SNAP recipients in these two counties alone,” said Beth Franco, ESMMSC executive director.

According to the South Carolina Department of Agriculture, only about one-third of farmers markets in South Carolina accept SNAP and many of those who do report very low participation. In a study of market managers and SNAP users, the USC CRNHD found many common themes as barriers for connecting farmers’ markets and SNAP users:

  • On the market side, there is a general misunderstanding of what SNAP is, how many people use it, the process of accepting it, and the work that goes into maintaining records and other perceived administrative burdens.
  • For users, issues like location, uncertainty if a market accepts SNAP, transportation, and not being actively invited to shop at these locations are barriers to greater use.

“It’s clear that there needs to be specific, concrete examples for farmers markets and customers to help break down these barriers,” said Carrier Draper, USC CRNHD director of policy and partnership development, “and I think this work will help create better informed markets and increased access to these important community spaces for South Carolinians who shop with SNAP.”

During phase two, project organizers will work with the SC Department of Agriculture and the SC Department of Social Services to implement the farmers market model into markets across the state.

HCFM is an independent 501(c)3 non-profit organization that works to increase the supply, demand and access to healthy, local food in Spartanburg County. We work to eliminate barriers to healthy eating through direct service programs, partnerships, and advocacy. HCFM operates farmers’ markets, South Carolina’s first Mobile Market, an urban farm and permaculture classroom.

 

USC CRNHD is comprised of interdisciplinary scholars and stakeholders engaged in meaningful research and transformational activities in the field of nutrition and health disparities. We engage with community partners, other research institutions, public agencies, and professional organizations to conduct research pertaining to food insecurity, nutrition policy, nutrition communications, nutrition epidemiology, and community engagement with vulnerable populations.