Participating farmers’ markets give two-for-one incentive tokens, or “Produce Perks,” to customers who use an Ohio Direction Card — their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits — to buy food. The program provides a dollar-for-dollar match up to $10 for every dollar spent at the market on produce.
“Produce Perks has brought many low-income and food-insecure residents to farmers’ markets for the first time,” said Nico Boyd, formerly the community development coordinator in the office and the coalition’s project coordinator. “Not only does it help stretch people’s food dollars to buy more fresh, local produce, it keeps food dollars here.”
“Families can stretch their food dollars by utilizing Produce Perks to double their whole-food purchases,” said Veronica Walton, who manages the Gateway 105 Farmers’ Market in Cleveland for the Famicos Foundation. “The relaxed atmosphere at farmers markets is perfect for conversations about meal preparation, food storage and preservation, all of which decrease food insecurities.”
- Some 55 percent of Clevelanders live in food deserts. People in food deserts have little access to fresh, healthy, affordable food.
- OSU Extension’s Cuyahoga County office recently expanded Produce Perks to include 30 area farmers markets. A subgrant from Wholesome Wave, a nonprofit targeting food issues, funded the expansion.
- Another Wholesome Wave subgrant allowed OSU Extension’s Hamilton County office to expand a produce buying incentive program in greater Cincinnati.
- When the Broadway Farmers’ Market in Cleveland’s Slavic Village joined the Produce Perks program, it saw a 191 percent increase in Ohio Direction Card sales in a single year, according to an article in northeast Ohio’s Fresh Water e-magazine.
Learn more about the Produce Perks program here.