Incentives Vital in Promoting Fresh Food

September 4, 2013
Originally published March 12, 2012
A program in Georgia is seeing rapid growth, and with that growth, Georgians who receive federal and state nutrition benefits are seeing an increase in their access to fresh produce. Wholesome Wave Georgia (WWG) creates a simple incentive to encourage federal and state nutrition benefit recipients to spend their dollars at producer-only farmers markets. All WWG partner markets are producer only, with emphasis on local and organic farming practices. We strive to connect farmers to all consumers, regardless of income. We work to protect local, sustainable, family farms and allow them to benefit from our incentive program.

WWG leverages existing government food nutrition programs to encourage shopping at farmers markets. Every state and federal nutrition benefit dollar spent at WWG partner farmers markets becomes two dollars for patrons and for local food producers. WWG collects private, or other, funds and distribute them to WWG's network of partner farmers markets, who use the funds to double the value of benefits for those receiving them.
The growth of WWG has been steep and steady. WWG began in 2009 with a network of three markets. In 2010, WWG expanded to 8 markets in five cities. In 2011, WWG had 14 markets in seven cities, stretching from Warner Robins to Rock Spring to Savannah. WWG is happy to report resounding success in 2011. WWG's partner markets doubled an incredible $61,500 to $123,000, with 3,500 individual card swipes throughout our network, for an average of $17.50 doubled per shopper equaling $35 in good food purchased. 
Every market day brings new stories of families who can now afford to feed their household a diet rich in fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables, along with locally raised meats, baked breads, and other goods. Furthermore, it is evident those on nutrition benefits, given the access and ability, will purchase high quality, fresh, locally produced foods and support local food producers whenever possible. 
Here is some important data collected from the 2010 and 2011 seasons, through federal nutrition benefit consumer surveys conducted at our markets, which underlines the importance of WWG's incentive program in its communities:
  • 93 percent say that incentives are an important factor in spending their dollars at WWG partner markets
  • 78 percent are regular shoppers at WWG partner markets, either weekly or several times per month
  • 91 percent claim an increased consumption of fresh, locally produced fruits and vegetables due to the WWG incentive program
  • 41 percent plan to spend dollars at business surrounding the farmers market
  • Federal nutrition benefit redemption at partner markets generally doubles after implementation of WWG incentive program
By focusing on federal and state nutrition benefit recipients, WWG is able to shift a portion of a huge chunk of food dollars spent (over $2.58 billion in SNAP/WIC in Georgia alone) to local farms and food producers! This benefits not only those who now have access to these fresh, wholesome, healthy foods, but the communities in which WWG's patrons live. More money stays in the local economy and more good food gets on the plates of all Georgians.

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