The Benefits of Farmers Markets in Urban Settings

Photo: Thinkstock/michaelpuche

Farmers markets in urban areas are becoming more popular as food deserts limit access to fresh food in these densely populated spheres. The increase in farmers markets bring many benefits to these neighborhoods.

SNAP at the Farmers Market

People who are eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, can benefit from farmers markets’ affordable prices and fresh fruits, vegetables and other foods. With increasing popularity of farmers markets, the FDA has made it a priority to expand access to such food for SNAP beneficiaries. According to the Farmer’s Market Coalition, SNAP redemption at farmers markets has increased from $4.2 million to $19.4 million between 2009 and 2015.

Nutrition Education

Urban areas that have farmers markets often have SNAP-Ed programs that aim to help SNAP recipients and non-recipient shoppers make healthier food choices on a limited budget.  While farmers markets have staple produce, they may also sell items people have never prepared or heard of. There usually are SNAP-Ed programs that provide nutrition education through cooking demonstrations, sharing recipes and eating together, such as Food Trust’s Project People Eating and Cooking Healthy, or P.E.A.C.H., to keep participants informed. Arming consumers with this information helps them make healthy choices in the future.

Incentives at the Farmers Market

In order to draw community members to a farmers market, sometimes word-of-mouth or advertising aren’t enough. If free cooking demonstrations and tastings through SNAP-Ed programs also aren’t sufficient, farmers markets create incentive programs to attract customers. Often funded by non-profit or community organizations, these programs will match amounts spent at a farmers markets in the form of a coupon or bonus dollars to be used at the market.

All of this helps create an atmosphere where community members return to the farmers markets week after week. Customers benefit from the cheaper prices and healthier options and become informed on how to make healthy choices.

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EJ Otto
EJ Otto is a graduate of LaSalle University with a BSN in Nutrition, and an Ingredient Regulatory Technical Writer for Campbell's Soup Company.