Food assistance foundational part of Adams County Farmers Market
The Adams County Farmers Market offers food assistance programs to promote equitable access to local goods.
Since its formation in 2008, the Adams County Farmers Market (ACFM) has been providing the community with access to fresh, nutritious food while strengthening the local agricultural economy. Since 2010, the ACFM has offered various food assistance programs to promote equitable access to locally grown foods for all, according to Reza Djalal, market manager.
The food assistance opportunities for consumers include accepting Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) funds, Farmers Market Nutrition Program checks, Adams County Wellness Vouchers, WellSpan Market Bucks, and Healthy Options Vouchers.
“The ACFM was founded, in part, to deliver these benefits,” Djalal said. He added that, according to organizational data from 2021, all the programs combined to serve over 1,200 lower income residents last year.
In 2010, the ACFM began accepting SNAP “Double Dollars,” ranking them “among the first farmers markets in Pennsylvania to launch a SNAP shopping incentive program of this type,” according to the organization’s website. The program doubles the purchasing power of individual SNAP dollars.
The ACFM created its own token system to facilitate the assistance programs for vendors. For example, $20 in SNAP benefits translates to $40 in market tokens consumers can use to purchase goods following the same guidelines they would in a grocery store. (SNAP benefits cannot be used to buy nonfood items, alcohol, medicine and supplements, and hot foods.)
When first launched in 2010, the SNAP “Double Dollars” program appealed to local churches that donated money towards the cause, Djalal said. As the program grew, the ACFM was eventually able to form a partnership with the Gettysburg Hospital Foundation, which provides the market with a grant each year to help fund the incentives.
“The Gettysburg Hospital Foundation recognizes the ACFM as an effective steward of these funds and [its] capacity to deliver a direct benefit to lower income shoppers,”Djalal said.
He added that the program “serves as an investment in community health and wellness so that the long term returns far exceed the funds spent to deliver the benefit.”
The food assistance programs were expanded in 2012 to also double the benefits of Farmers Market Nutrition Program checks that are distributed to lower income seniors and recipients of Women’s, Infants and Children (WIC) food assistance.
Around the same time, the ACFM launched the Healthy Options program, an initiative that provides food insecure households with greater access to fresh foods throughout the year.
While having a positive impact on the consumers in the community, the nutrition and wellness programs have also been beneficial to the vendors. “Virtually all the vendors who are currently participating at the ACFM are enormously supportive of the programs,” Djalal said.
Being able to facilitate these programs has also benefited the market itself. The ACFM received a 501(c)(3) nonprofit determination in 2020 which allows it more fundraising tools. Djalal noted a $40,000 sponsorship from Highmark Wholecare as a recent new source of funding.
Djalal credits the original concept of including food assistance programs to The Adams County Farmers Market Association founding board members Kathy Glahn, Kathy Gaskin, Kim Davidson, and others.
The programs were launched in collaboration with other nonprofits and organizations in the area, including the Adams County Food Policy Council, the Adams County Office for Aging, Healthy Adams County, and South Central Community Action Programs (SCCAP).
For more information, visit www.acfarmersmarkets.org.