Food & Latino Kids Research: Farmers Markets

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This is part of our Food and Latino Kids: A Research Review »

Access to farmers markets is lacking among Latinos

In the past decade, the number of farmers’ markets in the United States has more than doubled.51

However, many of these markets had not previously been accessible to underserved and Latino populations.

Efforts to increase number of farmers markets

A number of food financing initiatives have increased the number of farmers’ markets operating in underserved communities.52

For example, through the activities of community groups, there are nearly a dozen farmers’ markets in underserved neighborhoods in Oakland, California. Latinos comprise 25 percent of these communities.53

Similarly, the Y USA’s Pioneering Healthier Communities initiative prompted the creation of the Activate West Michigan coalition, which established five farmers’ markets in underserved African-American and Latino communities in urban Grand Rapids. One inner city farmers’ market was held at a public school located in a Latino neighborhood.

The community became actively involved, adding a celebration component to the market that included traditional music, games and educational activities. Community partners who spoke Spanish provided information on how to identify food services and other resources.

The market was so successful at increasing knowledge of resources and building community that it has become an annual event, and it has expanded into other inner-city communities.54

Latinos support and benefit from farmers markets

Several studies have found that Latinos, especially Latina women, report wanting more fresh fruits and vegetables in their diet and a willingness to support farmers’ markets introduced into their neighborhoods.32,55

Three studies suggest that the introduction of farmers’ markets may improve the eating habits of underserved Latinos and/or other underserved consumers.17,56,57

Most of these surveys provided descriptive information but did not use a comparison group, nor did they detail how much these initiatives improved food purchasing or eating habits.

Nevertheless, one quantitative, longitudinal study using survey data found that two farm stands placed outside of two underserved community sites in Texas one day a week for 12 weeks led to a significant increase in participants’ consumption of fruits and vegetables 57. Nearly one-third of adult participants in this study were Latino, and about two-thirds had children.

How to increase purchases at farmers markets

In order to better accommodate low-income families at farmers’ markets, the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2012 provided funding to help states provide wireless equipment to farmers’ markets not yet accepting EBT cards.

Between 2008 and 2012 there was a 400 percent increase in EBT card usage by SNAP participants, nearly 20% of whom are Latino, at farmers’ markets nationwide.58

One study of five farmers’ markets in Arizona found that after the markets began accepting SNAP EBT cards, SNAP redemptions increased in 4 of the 5 markets, as did overall sales.59

Similar increases in SNAP redemptions have been reported by other farmers’ markets in other states after they began to accept EBTs, with one study of farmers’ markets in New York City reporting SNAP sales that more than doubled following acceptance of EBTs.60

In California, where 38 percent of the population is Latino, the “Healthy Purchase” pilot program enables SNAP recipients to use a portion of their benefits to purchase fresh produce with their Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards.61

After vendors at farmers’ markets in lower-income regions of King County, Washington were offered subsidized EBT terminals for processing SNAP transactions, the number of market stalls accepting SNAP increased by nearly 80 percent. However, one study found that without financial support for wireless EBT terminals at farmers’ markets, many vendors find the costs of equipment and fees too high to serve SNAP customers.62

To encourage more low-income families to patronize farmers’ markets, five state-wide programs have been adopted that provide subsidies to SNAP participants to use at local famers’ markets.

These initiatives appear to be effective at increasing consumption at farmers’ markets; however, it is unclear if the increase is attributed to purchase of healthy foods or other, less healthy alternatives available at the farmers’ markets.

After New York City instituted its Health Bucks program, which offers $2 for each $5 spent using electronic benefit transfer (EBT) at a farmers’ market, EBT sales significantly increased at farmers’ markets offering the incentive ($383 versus $274) between 2006 and 2009, though it was not possible to link EBT sales to increased purchase of fruits and vegetables by SNAP participants because the markets also sell foods and goods other than fresh produce.63–65

A similarly structured healthy food financing program in Philadelphia initiated in 2009 found that users of the “Philly Food Bucks” provided to SNAP participants were more likely than non-users to be non-white and new to farmers’ markets.

Philly Food Bucks users also reported eating more fruits and vegetables since becoming customers at the markets. SNAP sales at farmers’ markets in low-income areas more than tripled with the introduction of the Philly Food Bucks program. Although this was due in part to an increasing number of markets accepting SNAP during the study period, average SNAP sales per market more than doubled between 2009 and 2011.66

In downtown Rochester, New York, a similar program found that within a year of its implementation, EBT sales increased more than tenfold.

EBT customers and participants of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) using the program reported that the quality of the farmers’ market produce was better than the quality of produce at their usual store. Moreover, about two-thirds reported that the price of the farmers’ market produce was either better or the same as that of produce at their local stores.67

In San Diego County, a program that gives coupons to WIC or SNAP recipients to be used at local farmers’ markets increased participants’ weekly spending on fruits and vegetables and consumption of fresh produce.68

In the 22 percent Latino region of Hampden County, Mass., coupons were provided to SNAP recipients that doubled their purchasing power at farmers’ markets. The use of the coupons also doubled the markets’ SNAP sales. The program began in 2008 and has since expanded to more than 160 markets.69 A rigorous evaluation of this program found that compared to non-participants, program participants spent more on targeted fruits and vegetables, and increased consumption of this produce boosted participant scores on the 2010 Healthy Eating Index.70

A simulation study on the effects of reducing the cost of fruits and vegetables by 20 percent found that it is likely to result in a larger decrease in body mass index (BMI) among SNAP participants than non-participants of similar income levels.39 In this study, between 10 and 14 percent of the SNAP participants were Latino.

More from our Food and Latino Kids: A Research Review »

References for this section »

(51) US Department of Agriculture Agricultural Marketing Service. Farmers markets and local food marketing.

(52) PolicyLink. Healthy Food, Healthy Communities: Promising Strategies to Improve Access to Fresh, Healthy Food and Transform Communities; 2011.

(53) PolicyLink. Healthy Food for All: Building Equitable and Sustainable Food Systems in Detroit and Oakland; 2009.

(54) Cyzman, D.; Wierenga, J.; Sielawa, J. A Community Response to the Food Environment. Health Promot. Pract. 2009, 10 (2 Suppl), 146S – 155S.

(55) Foltz, J. L.; Harris, D. M.; Blanck, H. M. Support among U.S. Adults for Local and State Policies to Increase Fruit and Vegetable Access. Am. J. Prev. Med. 2012, 43 (3 Suppl 2), S102–S108.

(56) Ruelas, V.; Iverson, E.; Kiekel, P.; Peters, A. The Role of Farmers’ Markets in Two Low Income, Urban Communities. J. Community Health 2012, 37 (3), 554–562.

(57) Evans, A. E.; Jennings, R.; Smiley, A. W.; Medina, J. L.; Sharma, S. V; Rutledge, R.; Stigler, M. H.; Hoelscher, D. M. Introduction of Farm Stands in Low-Income Communities Increases Fruit and Vegetable among Community Residents. Health Place 2012, 18 (5), 1137–1143.

(58) U.S. Department of Agriculture: Food and Nutrition Service. USDA Grants to Increase Farmers Market Participation in SNAP; 2012.

(59) Bertmann, F. M. W.; Ohri-Vachaspati, P.; Buman, M. P.; Wharton, C. M. Implementation of Wireless Terminals at Farmers’ Markets: Impact on SNAP Redemption and Overall Sales. Am. J. Public Health 2012, 102 (7), e53–e55.

(60) McCormack, L. A.; Laska, M. N.; Larson, N. I.; Story, M. Review of the Nutritional Implications of Farmers’ Markets and Community Gardens: A Call for Evaluation and Research Efforts. J. Am. Diet. Assoc. 2010, 110 (3), 399–408.

(61) Legislative Counsel of California. Nutrition: Healthy Food Purchase Pilot Program. 2006.

(62) Cole, K.; McNees, M.; Kinney, K.; Fisher, K.; Krieger, J. W. Increasing Access to Farmers Markets for Beneficiaries of Nutrition Assistance: Evaluation of the Farmers Market Access Project. Prev. Chronic Dis. 2013, 10, E168.

(63) Baronberg, S.; Dunn, L.; Nonas, C.; Dannefer, R.; Sacks, R. The Impact of New York City’s Health Bucks Program on Electronic Benefit Transfer Spending at Farmers Markets, 2006-2009. Prev. Chronic Dis. 2013, 10, E163.

(64) Olsho, L. E.; Payne, G. H.; Walker, D. K.; Baronberg, S.; Jernigan, J.; Abrami, A. Impacts of a Farmers’ Market Incentive Programme on Fruit and Vegetable Access, Purchase and Consumption. Public Health Nutr. 2015, 1–10.

(65) Payne, G. H.; Wethington, H.; Olsho, L.; Jernigan, J.; Farris, R.; Walker, D. K. Implementing a Farmers’ Market Incentive Program: Perspectives on the New York City Health Bucks Program. Prev. Chronic Dis. 2013, 10, E145.

(66) Young, C. R.; Aquilante, J. L.; Solomon, S.; Colby, L.; Kawinzi, M. A.; Uy, N.; Mallya, G. Improving Fruit and Vegetable Consumption among Low-Income Customers at Farmers Markets: Philly Food Bucks, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 2011. Prev. Chronic Dis. 2013, 10, E166.

(67) Corbin, K.; Komosinski, M. Beyond the Grocery Store: Increasing Access O Healthy Foods through Farmers’ Markets and WIC/EBT. 2011 Community Health Conference. Breezy Point, MN 2011.

(68) Lindsay, S.; Lambert, J.; Penn, T.; Hedges, S.; Ortwine, K.; Mei, A.; Delaney, T.; Wooten, W. J. Monetary Matched Incentives to Encourage the Purchase of Fresh Fruits and Vegetables at Farmers Markets in Underserved Communities. Prev. Chronic Dis. 2013, 10, E188.

(69) Kramer, M.; Zakaras, M. Improving Nutrition for SNAP Recipients: A Roadmap for the Double Value Coupon Program. 2011.

(70) U.S. Department of Agriculture. Evaluation of the Healthy Incentives Pilot (HIP) Final Report: Summary; 2014.

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