Post by Intern and UNH Student Meriah M.
Here in New Hampshire shoppers using SNAP (formerly food stamps) are able to double their buying power at farmers markets through the Granite State Market Match program, where food assistance benefits are matched with vouchers to purchase fruits and veggies from local farms.
Across the country there are programs similar to Granite State Market Match, commonly known as nutrition incentive programs, that help low-income shoppers buy more fresh produce.
California is home to another Market Match program that parallels the Granite State Market Match in its goals to provide additional income for SNAP shoppers to use at local farmers markets. The California Market Match program is funded by the same grant that supports Granite State Market Match, the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) Grant, with the Ecology Center implementing and overseeing the program. In both New Hampshire and California, the FINI Grant (now called the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program) supports efforts to increase fruit and vegetable consumption among SNAP recipients.
Since the program was originally founded in 2009, Market Match in California has evolved to best support low-income consumers and local farms. At its inception, California’s Market Match looked similar to the current structure of the Granite State Market Match, with community-based partnerships of market operators and local organizations that created the California Market Match Consortium (CMMC) facilitating the program. What started as a program offered at 44 markets has expanded to 290 sites across the state.
Though it is helpful for states to model various programs on the success of other states, programs will differ based on the culture, location, and government of each state. One obvious difference between California and New Hampshire is the climate, lending to significantly different agricultural products and timelines that effect when and where fresh produce is available. Outside of physical differences that affect farmers’ market shoppers, there are differences in the way Market Match is allocated. As in New Hampshire, California shoppers are able to get $1 to $1 SNAP dollars matched for produce vouchers, but only up to $10 depending on the market’s Market Match budget. In New Hampshire, shoppers are not limited by Granite State Market Match as to how much they can spend and customers will commonly match $20 or $30 at a time.
In California, WIC benefits (the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children) can also be used for the Market Match Program, allowing new mothers and children up to the age of five another opportunity to engage with Market Match and in turn, local farms. In New Hampshire, Market Match is currently limited to SNAP benefits (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program).
Access to affordable, healthy, local food is important everywhere in America, and it is exciting to see New Hampshire and California pioneering unique Market Match programs that benefit low-income consumers and local farmers. Evaluating the various ways states implement nutrition incentive programs will lead to better informed national policy and solutions to address food insecurity.