Fresh Bucks Aims to Increase Sales at Farmers Markets

Though the popularity of farmer’s markets is growing, they still have a reputation of being too expensive for people with limited budgets. In fact, of all Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) spending in Washington, only .02% is spent at farmer’s markets. Brian Estes of Fresh Bucks aims to change that through a unique program that incentivizes shopping at the market while building our rural economies.

Tell me about Fresh Bucks.

Fresh Bucks is a service offered through farmers markets to benefit low-income customers and the farmers selling at market. By offering additional ‘Fresh Bucks’ (vouchers for buying fresh produce) for customers shopping with Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits (formerly food stamps), Farmers Markets are able to attract new customers, increase the amount of shopping done by customers each market visit, and encourage more regular patronage by SNAP clients.

What difference are you trying to make in the food system? 

We are working to increase the accessibility to healthy food for low-income households while helping farmers markets capture an increasing percentage of individuals shopping for food in their area. Fresh Bucks help build the local farm economy while creating equity in food access.

What goals do you have for the business?

A SNAP recipient using Fresh Bucks to purchase fresh produce from Alm Hill Gardens at Wallingford Farmers Market. Credit: Zachary D. Lyons

We want to increase the number of markets offering Fresh Bucks, and increase the degree to which SNAP clients are utilizing those markets. Our goal is to increase the regular intake of healthy foods while capturing more food dollars for our regional farm economy. We’d like to optimize the format, implementation, promotion and assessment of the program, working towards a model that can be employed statewide.

How has HEDI helped you refine your business model?

HEDI has helped us identify new strategies and frameworks for how we optimize our operation. It has helped us think outside of the box on efficiently pursuing outcomes, looking at revenue, and considering the challenges and opportunities with regard to long-term sustainability.
What advice do you have for similar programs? 

Think outside the box, be willing to pivot, ask hard questions and be willing to keep your eye on your long-term outcomes and goals.

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