Virginia Fresh Match:
A Statewide Network to Help Farmers Markets Serve Low-Income Shoppers
Virginia Fresh Match (VFM) is a network of farmers markets across the Commonwealth that offer nutrition incentive programs. Nutrition incentives double the value of federal nutrition benefits like SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps) spent at participating farmers markets. Virginia Fresh Match helps people bring home more healthy fruits and vegetables and supports local farmers. The wins are three-fold: low-income consumers can afford additional healthy food, local farmers gain new customers and make more money, and more food dollars stay in the local economy.
Farmers markets are on the rise in Virginia, with 226 locations open in 2016, selling everything from peas to peaches. Half already accept SNAP. But while Virginians spend over a billion dollars a year in SNAP, only one tenth of one percent ($163,000 in 2016) goes to farmers markets. Much of it goes to cheap choices like instant rice and noodles. When more SNAP money is spent on local produce, everyone benefits.
Since 2009, markets across Virginia have run their own incentive programs—many funded through a national non-profit called Wholesome Wave. In 2015, Wholesome Wave worked closely with Virginia Farmers Market Association and individual markets to form a statewide network, Virginia Fresh Match, to offer statewide incentive funding. In 2018, LEAP and Virginia Community Food Connections partnered under VFM and received a FINI (Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive) grant from the USDA to provide SNAP-incentive funding through 2021, as well as to expand the network to new markets and retail grocery stores. Check out the impact of Virginia Fresh Match in 2017!