Outreach to Engage SNAP Users at Farmers’ Markets

When FoodShare (Wisconsin’s SNAP program) users were asked how they learned they could use their benefits at the farmers’ market, Word of Mouth (n=44) and From a friend, family, colleague (n=32) were the top two responses (see the rest of the report here).  Additionally, respondents (n=22) indicated they found they could use the program through other businesses/services, such as WIC or a food pantry.

What does this mean?  Word-of-Mouth works in reaching not just FoodShare users, as shown in our data, but it’s also used as a powerful marketing tool to promote ideas, brands, or even consumer behavior changes (Berger and Schwartz, 2011)¹.

Word-of-Mouth (WOM) Marketing and Outreach

According to Berger and Schwartz (2011)¹, ongoing or continual word of mouth marketing is most successful when people are reminded or cued by their environment (pg.869). If reminders or cues are needed to facilitate successful word-of-mouth marketing, how does this method differ from printing and distributing a poster or flyer, or a billboard? The answer: people power. By integrating outreach with environmental cues, we believe markets have the power to efficiently, and cost-effectively reach SNAP users in their communities.

So…what do you mean by ‘outreach’?

We really liked the definition of outreach developed at the University of Kansas’ Community Toolbox:

Here is the direct quote from the toolbox resource that we used to support our market partners in improving outreach to SNAP users in Wisconsin:

People use the word “outreach” to describe a wide range of activities, from actual delivery of services to dissemination of information. As a tool to help expand access to healthy services, practices or products, outreach is most often designed to accomplish one of the following (or some combination):

  • Directly deliver healthy services or products
  • Educate or inform the target population, increasing their knowledge and/or skills
  • Educate or inform people who interact with the target population (often called community health advisors)
  • Establish beneficial connections between people and/or organizations

For our project, we focused on the last three forms of outreach: educating or informing the target population (SNAP users); educating or informing the people who interact with the target population (WIC clinic workers, food pantry workers, other community-service providing organization partners and staff); and establishing beneficial connections between people and/or organizations (SNAP users to farmers’ markets; farmers’ markets to other community-based organizations). Find out more about our Community Connector model here


1) Jonah Berger, Eric M. Schwartz (2011) What Drives Immediate and Ongoing Word of Mouth?. Journal of Marketing Research: October 2011, Vol. 48, No. 5, pp. 869-880.

2) DeChiara, M., Unruh,E., Wolff ,T., Rosen.A., with Community Partners, Inc. Outreach Works: Strategies for Expanding Health Access in Communities. 24 South Prospect St., Amherst MA 01002, 2001.