Getting More Healthy Food to Low-Income Residents

As farmers market season opens across the region, low-income residents of Seattle and King County are about to have many more places to access fresh, healthy food, thanks to OSE’s Fresh Bucks program. Fresh Bucks is OSE’s cornerstone food access program, which makes healthy food more affordable to low-income households. Fresh Bucks doubles the purchasing power for low-income households who use their federal food stamp benefits (SNAP) to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables at Farmers Markets. Fresh Bucks are available at every farmers market in Seattle (16 markets) as well as 5 direct-market farm stands. This year, we are launching Fresh Bucks at nine additional farmers markets in King County.

In 2015, the program brought close to $290,000 to local farmers, which translates to $518,432 in economic stimulus for our community. Fresh Bucks continues to bring new shoppers to farmers markets, and many of those shoppers become repeat shoppers.

When asked about what the Fresh Bucks program means to them, program participants shared that “It makes my food stamps truly cover the healthy food I need,” and  “I definitely eat more fruit and vegetables because Fresh Bucks makes it all affordable. Also the idea of supporting the local economy is a win-win for us all.”

For people who can’t make it to the farmers market, we are partnering with Seattle Tilth and Pike Place Market to expand programs offering low-cost fruit and vegetable deliveries (think a CSA) to childcares, preschool sites, community centers, and other convenient pick-up locations. Like Fresh Bucks, these are provided at a subsidized cost to SNAP recipients.

Partnerships have been integral to the growth and success of Fresh Bucks – locally, regionally, statewide, and nationally. Farmers market organizations in Seattle have been key implementation partners from day one. Working with regional and statewide partners, we took a small Seattle pilot and turned it into a statewide effort. With funding from the US Department of Agriculture, the WA Department of Health (with many partners around the state) is supporting Fresh Bucks in 80 farmers markets around Washington. This grant is also allowing OSE to expand Fresh Bucks to farmers markets in South King County – where the need for affordable access to healthy food is great.

In addition federal funding, Fresh Bucks is supported by regional partners. In addition to City of Seattle, King Conservation District, Public Health – Seattle & King County, Seattle Childrens’ and Pike Place Market Foundation provide the financial support needed to support the growth of Fresh Bucks.

For more information and participating market locations, visit the Fresh Bucks webpage.