Year End Meeting of MIFMA’s Food Assistance Partnership

12/1/2013

Image courtesy mifma.org. (view larger image)

Image courtesy mifma.org.

According to the Michigan Farmers Market Association (MIFMA), over the past five years, food assistance benefit programs like Double Up Food Bucks have increased the use of SNAP benefits at Michigan farmers markets. SNAP redemptions at Michigan markets in 2011 and 2012 were the highest in the Midwest by hundreds of thousands of dollars, and MIFMA estimates that these programs have helped put $5 million back into the pockets of local farmers and producers and 3 million pounds of healthy food on Michigan tables.

On November 19, 2013, MIFMA held their annual Food Assistance Partnership meeting in Owosso, MI. The meeting provided an opportunity for market managers and others involved in farmers’ markets to network and share their experiences with using food assistance benefits.

Participants discussed a variety of topics, including the benefits and challenges to accepting food assistance at markets, pilot projects for the future of Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) and how to encourage other markets to accept SNAP and other benefits. Information on the future of these programs in 2014 was also discussed. In addition, MIFMA provided information about overall lessons learned by their organization and what worked for the majority of markets in accepting benefits and what did not. Some of the overall lessons learned include the importance of providing education to those using food assistance (including recipes, cooking demos, facts about products, etc.), outreach and communication regarding food assistance eligibility and creating a partnership with the local media to spread the word about using food assistance to purchase fresh, local food.