The Extending Reach of EBT at Wisconsin Farmers’ Markets Project was a USDA, Farmers’ Market Promotion Program (FMPP)-funded project (14-FMPPX-0179) with the purpose of understanding and identifying barriers FoodShare (Wisconsin Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, formerly food stamps) participants face in accessing Wisconsin farmers’ markets. Five farmers’ markets in different communities throughout the state participated in the project: The Downtown Green Bay, Inc. Farmers’ Market (Green Bay, Brown County); The Fondy Food Center (Milwaukee, Milwaukee County); The Wisconsin Rapids Farmers’ Market (Wisconsin Rapids, Wood County) and the Downtown Stevens Point Farmers’ Market (Steven’s Point, Portage County); and the Janesville Farmers’ Market (Janesville, Rock County).
Key-informant interviews were conducted between October 2014 and March 2015 with community partners, county extension agents, and farmers’ market managers to determine perceived barriers FoodShare users faced in accessing farmers’ markets, as well as to gain insights into the marketing and outreach strategies markets were implementing to reach these users. The information from those interviews was used to construct a questionnaire to survey FoodShare users to gain their perspectives on the greatest hindrances to using FoodShare benefits at their local farmers’ markets.
Results from the FoodShare user surveys indicated the biggest barrier to participation at the farmers’ markets as a lack of knowledge that the programs exist. Additionally, users indicated that monetary incentive programs and free activities for kids would enhance future program participation.
The project recommended implementing an outreach program geared toward increasing awareness of the program, and monitored outreach activities in each of the five communities for effectiveness. The outreach program model was adopted by an additional community (Walker’s Square Farmers’ Market, Milwaukee) outside of the grant program participants, and one market area (Downtown Green Bay, Inc. Farmers’ Market, Green Bay) looked to continue the outreach program due to perceived value.
Overall, materials developed for the project reached 31 counties, a five-fold increase from original project scope (5 counties). Additionally, community partners in one project county used project materials to develop similar outreach materials for WIC participants (Wood County).
Final assessments at farmers’ markets confirmed word-of-mouth marketing and outreach as the most effective strategies for marketing the use of FoodShare at farmers’ markets.