Grand Rapids Area Community Foundation Annual Grant Cycle supports local produce for families in the community

February 11, 2019

“As we talk about another organization that received grants through our Annual Grant Cycle, I can’t help but laugh at the irony of our place and time in the Great North,” notes Sarah Copeland, Director of Grants and Programs at the Grand Rapids Area Community Foundation. “Right now, it is snowing.  It’s actually been snowing for two days, and we just emerged from a massive deep freeze. Don’t get me started about how we will start to feel as though Spring is approaching, and then – BAM! We will get an additional dump of snow in March. So, the irony is we are talking about the Grand Rapids Farmers’ Market. We are so fortunate to have a local Farmers’ Market; but from here, it feels like a million degrees away,” concludes Copeland.

 

 

Grand Rapids Farmers Market Mighty Matching Dollar SNAP incentive

 

PHOTO: (L-R) Kent Lorentzen, Treasurer and Jane Jewett, President of the Grand Rapids Farmers’ Market happily receive grants from the Grand Rapids Area Community Foundation’s Annual Grant Cycle.

 

The Mighty Matching Dollar SNAP incentive encourages l families who receive SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) food assistance to purchase fresh local food at the Grand Rapids Farmers' Market by matching their SNAP spending 2-to-1. This creates new customers for small local farmers. Approximately 10% of Greater Itasca residents receive SNAP. Recipients go to the card reader booth same as folks using their credit or debit cards, swipe their card, inform the operator how much they want to spend, and are given wooden tokens to spend at any farmers' stand that sells SNAP-eligible foods. Credit and debit card users follow an identical procedure and receive similar tokens (though these can be used to purchase SNAP-ineligible items such as crafts and ready-to-eat foods).

 

For every dollar, up to $10, that a SNAP recipient purchases in tokens, they receive an additional Mighty Matching Dollar coupon and a Market Bucks coupon (through a state-funded program) that works just like tokens and cash at the booths. Farmers are reimbursed at the end of market for the tokens and coupons.

 

Last year, over $29,000 of local food was purchased by SNAP-eligible families through this program and 2018 is on track to be even higher. Outside of the Metro area and Rochester, the Grand Rapids Market has been the most successful (in terms of total sales) SNAP program in Minnesota for six year. If you measure success by the amount of local food sold per farmer (that sells SNAP-eligible food), the Market has by far the most successful program in the state, with sales of over $1,200 per eligible vendor.

 

Funds were awarded from the Edgar and Hannah Hetteen Fund- $1,000 and TJ Maroney/Barzen Donor Advised Fund- $250.

 

PoP - Power of Produce Program

The Power of Produce Program (commonly called the PoP Club) was started in Oregon City in 2011 to encourage children at the market to make healthy choices and learn more about the variety of locally grown produce. It became so successful that the national Farmers' Market Coalition asked to create templates so that other markets across the country could create similar programs. Several years later, University of Minnesota Extension went even further creating a PoP Club Toolkit. The program is fun, popular and gets kids engaged with farmers and fresh produce - but it needs investment, and the community is essential to its success.

 

In 2018 market volunteers set up a trial run with small donations from local businesses and organizations and it was a great success. Each Market day children ages 2-12 can come to Market and receive a two-dollar coupon to purchase their very own fruits or vegetables. Unlike the grocery store, where produce from across the globe is available year-round, kids learn to navigate what's in season and interact with the farmer that grew their produce.  This program is really about kids taking ownership of their healthy choices so that for the six months when the Market isn't open, they'll still be emboldened to try healthy produce.

 

For all donors, every dollar donated equals a dollar of fresh local produce that will be consumed by a local child and every dollar donated supports the local small-ag economy.  The Market is funded solely though vendor dues, so community support is essential to offer additional programs like this.

 

Funds were awarded from the Gibbons Family Fund- $1,000 and Peter Burich and Gloria Sella Burich Fund- $1,000.

 

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