Williamsburg Farmers Market POP Plus Pilot
Williamsburg Farmers Market Manager and VFM Coastal Regional Lead, Tracy Frey recently learned about how to provide additional SNAP incentives at market during a Virginia Fresh Match training. Providing incentives for kids and moms was all Tracy had to hear before she hit the ground running. One of the struggles many busy families face is finding the time to make it to the market. With the implementation of the POP (Power of Produce Club) program in 2016 Williamsburg farmers market began to see a rise in parents consistently bringing their children to the market and shopping together. Allowing the kids to have a say in which fruits and vegetables make it to the dinner table increases the likelihood that they will form healthy eating habits.
According to the Farmers Market Coalition website, the initial Power Of Produce campaign started in Oregon in 2011 and provides a fun opportunity for children to engage in the local food system through conversations directly with farmers, educational games and demonstrations, and exposure to new fruits and vegetables.
The market was already running a POP Club to educate children and provide incentives in addition to SNAP. Each week kids line up at the POP Club tent in Williamsburg and pick up their ‘market passport’ where they record the weeks’ educational activity. After the activity is complete each child enjoys “two bites” of a fresh food or vegetable before they are unleashed into the market to spend their 3 tokens. This is a program where truly everyone benefits, kids learn about purchasing power, families create intentional healthy lifestyle choices, and farmers/markets see the direct impact of market sales increasing with a new, younger and fresher customer segment!
Tracy and her team decided to take it a step further with a POP Plus pilot which provides both parents and kids a SNAP incentive for fresh fruits and vegetables.
“This idea fits in with our strategy to attract SNAP families with children,” said Tracy.
“With POP Plus, we can offer some of these families even greater value - and more reasons to visit the market regularly”. The pilot program provides an additional SNAP incentive to children, giving the kids more agency in choosing produce. “By pairing kids activities and SNAP incentives, we are seeing greater family participation this season,”
says Tracy. Funding for the added vouchers has been subsidized by generous market donations and program curriculum developed through a partnership with the Williamsburg Farm Camp. Additional support provided by SHIP (School Health Initiative Program).