Oberlin Farmers' Market Food Stamp (SNAP) Incentivization Pilot Program

Summary: In the spring of 2014, the Green EDGE Fund officially approved a sustainability grant of $1,300 to create a SNAP-incentivization pilot program for the Oberlin Farmers’ Market (OFM) over the summer of 2014. The grant will allow for the purchase of $1,300 worth of additional standardized Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) tokens from the USDA. The program will distribute one dollar in tokens for every dollar a SNAP client spends at the market, providing a 100% increase in purchasing power and an incentive to shop at the OFM.

Background Premise: The city of Oberlin is home to many low-income neighborhoods and struggles with issues of food access. The Oberlin Farmers’ Market has potential to increase access to fresh and local food among low-income community members. Although the OFM currently accepts SNAP and is already equipped with an EBT processing machine, EBT transactions on average comprise insignificant percentages of total weekly market purchases. Low EBT presence in farmers’ markets is common across the United States, but recently implemented summertime SNAP incentivization programs in some cities have been remarkably successful in increasing the representation of SNAP clients among market consumers. The OFM will implement a similar incentivization pilot program this summer with the purpose of encouraging maximum participation by SNAP clients and limiting stigmatization. Last year, OFM consumers spent approximately $1,300 total in EBT. Therefore the OFM requested funding for an additional $1,300 in tokens to provide a 100% increase in purchasing power for all EBT holders, for transactions all summer of 2014. Prior to and during implementation, the incentivization program will be promoted with coordinated community outreach efforts. Oberlin market managers will carefully track weekly EBT purchases during the trial period then conduct a data analysis of the results after the program is finished.

Cost-Benefit Analysis: The only cost of funding this pilot program is that of purchasing $1,300 worth of additional standardized EBT tokens for the Oberlin Farmers’ Market. At the end of the summer, any excess tokens will be stored for future years or future pilot programs, or exchanged for cash to return to the GEF. The GEF pursued this project because it will expand access to local, high-quality food to low-income households in the community. The OFM is an important community asset that has potential to become a significant source of fresh produce distribution to Oberlin residents. This project will increase investment in the local food system and promote the OFM.

Additional Benefits: The investment in this community-based project by the GEF has the potential to strengthen bonds between the Oberlin community and the College.