Food Justice: Gratitude for the Farmers Market Fund
Updated: Aug 6, 2020
One of the highlights of living in Portland, OR is the perennial access to locally grown food via the city’s many farmers markets. Purchasing food from local farmers markets not only provides people with fresh, nutritious food, but also supports sustainable agriculture and contributes to a healthy local economy. And, thanks to the Farmers Market Fund (FMF), a local 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization, low-income families eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) have even greater access to these life-sustaining foods.
The Farmers Market Fund is run by a small staff and an active board of directors from across the state. Their mission is to “make healthy, locally grown food accessible to underserved Oregonians.” The main way they do this is through their Double Up Food Bucks (DUFB) program. When someone uses their SNAP benefits at the farmers market to purchase $1 SNAP tokens (which can be used to buy vegetables, meats, fish poultry, dairy products, and seeds/plants), DUFB vouchers are issued at a dollar-to-dollar match, up to $10 each market day. The DUFB vouchers can be used to purchase fruits, vegetables, mushrooms, cut herbs, dried beans, nuts, and even vegetable starts.
The FMF started out small using community donations for a SNAP matching program at a single farmers market. They eventually secured federal funding from the USDA under the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive grant program. They now have support from many local businesses including Kaiser Permanente, Umpqua Bank, The Autzen Foundation, New Seasons Market, Whole Foods Market, and many other generous donors. Most recently they received a $1.5 Million appropriation from the state of Oregon which will be used to expand the DUFB program throughout Oregon’s farmers markets, farm share sites, and rural grocery stores over the next two years.
I am currently a SNAP recipient, and my children and I have benefited from this vital program. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, local farmers markets have seemed to be one of the safer places to shop since they are all open-air markets. Shortly after the Stay Home orders were issued by Oregon’s governor, some of the Portland area markets had to temporarily close. This meant that some of the funding for the DUFB program was funneled to the PSU Farmers Market (the largest of all the Portland Farmers markets) and they were able to match up to $20 per market, instead of the usual $10. This was huge for my family. DUFB provided this match for 6 weeks, until the start of the new market season in May. This meant that we were able to get an additional $120 of fresh fruits and vegetables that we normally may not have been able to afford.
This organization beautifully demonstrates how nonprofits can work together with other organizations and the community to support public health. The FMF collaborates with the Portland Farmers Market, as well as many other farmers markets around the state. They bring together friends and family at the market and ensure that everyone is able to afford fresh local fruits and vegetables, not only those with larger budgets for food. They listen to and learn from those using their program by administering annual surveys to collect and analyze data to better carry out their mission. And finally, they influence individuals through educational programs that teach about healthy food, cooking techniques, and budget shopping tips with the goal to reduce hunger and improve the overall health of Oregonians.
The more I learn about organizations like the FMF, the more passionately I feel about helping underserved people find more ways to ensure healthy food is a part of their daily lives. For more information about the FMF, please visit https://farmersmarketfund.org.