Target: Hunger farmers’ markets (Springfield and North Berkshire)

Project Overview

CNE08-042
Project Type: Sustainable Community Innovation
Funds awarded in 2008: $7,457.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2009
Region: Northeast
State: Massachusetts
Project Leader:
Lori-Anne Russo
The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts

Annual Reports

Commodities

  • Animal Products: dairy, meat

Practices

  • Farm Business Management: marketing management, e-commerce
  • Sustainable Communities: local and regional food systems, community development

    Proposal abstract:

    Western Massachusetts is one of the most productive agricultural regions in the country. Farmers’ markets provide a venue for dozens of local growers to sell their produce directly to consumers, helping to support small farmers by eliminating the need for wholesale distributors, and creating a vibrant social gathering place that stimulates and strengthens a community. While there are many farmers’ markets in our region already, most of them are missing an untapped consumer base – low-income communities, where households desperately need a source of affordable fresh produce. If properly publicized and planned, farmers’ markets can be highly successful in these communities, providing a new source of income for farmers and helping low-income households obtain the nutritious produce they need through locally-based, sustainable means. The Food Bank’s Target:Hunger program is supporting and expanding farmers’ markets in two low-income communities: Mason Square, Springfield, and the seven rural towns of Northern Berkshire County. Through multiple strategies to reach out to households and provide incentives for them to shop at farmers’ markets, Target:Hunger will help build a new customer constituency for the markets, generating additional income to farmers and increasing access to healthy foods for struggling households. Target:Hunger is focused on increasing food security and community food systems for everyone in Mason Square and the north Berkshires, through strategies like the farmers’ markets that increase access to nutritious foods, support local agriculture, and encourage use of food assistance benefits. We are not only providing a new income stream for small local farms, but also nurturing and supporting new farming ventures that serve low-income communities. This grant proposal advocates that supporting local farmers’ markets in low-income communities will benefit the community and region as a whole by strengthening local agriculture and helping lower-income households stave off hunger.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    At the Mason Square Farmers’ Market (Springfield), some of our expected and measurable results include:
    • 20% increase in Farmers’ Market sales;
    • Two new growers and a 20% increase in the diversity of farm produce offerings;
    • 15% of market sales conducted via an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) machine;
    • Undergo an analysis of best-known practices and marketing strategies, such as identification of local Springfield backyard growers whose produce would diversify the market’s offerings, creating effective public service announcements, signage and flyers with incentive coupons;
    • One training conducted for farmers in Food Stamp reimbursement and EBT machine usage;
    • Partnerships, contract, plan, evaluation systems, and materials created for cooking demos, taste-tests, “quick-hit” nutrition tips, and recipes, to be offered twice each month during the 2008 summer season;
    • Open the market to at least two, non-produce (i.e., bread, dairy, meat) vendors;
    • Analyze the first season of the Mason Square Farmers’ Market (2007) using data collected throughout the summer by market volunteers and summarized by Smith College interns (currently underway).

    In North Adams (north Berkshire County), our expected and measurable results include:
    • Establish a plan for increased promotion of the North Adams Farmers’ Market to low-income and other households. Development of a targeted marketing plan in partnership with local agencies that includes incentive coupons, a promotion event during the summer 2008 season, and a system for reimbursing farmers for Food Stamp purchases;
    • At least a 5% increase in market sales;
    • At least 5% of market sales through Food Stamps;
    • Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT)/credit/debit machine secured;
    • One training conducted for farmers in Food Stamp reimbursement and EBT machine usage;
    • A weekly van loop from low-income neighborhoods and senior housing to the North Adams Farmers’ Market established and used by the community;
    • Partnerships, contract, plan, evaluation systems, and materials created for cooking demos, taste-tests, “quick-hit” nutrition tips, and recipes, to be offered during six of the 12 market days in the North Adams Farmers’ Market 2008 summer season;
    • Summer intern secured to aid in managing EBT acceptance and marketing plan.

    Target:Hunger overall has several built-in evaluation components that will track the changes over time as a result of our work. A market survey at the end of the pilot period will enable us to compare rates of hunger and food insecurity to those at the start of the project. Additional proxy indicators will provide a more detailed view of changes in the community. Our findings will be used to develop a Target:Hunger Manual for Replication, so that this model of asset-based community development and sustainable local food systems can be used by other communities to reduce hunger.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.