Thanks to generous funding from Puffin Foundation West, Pearl Market established a very successful EBT-matching program, which helps address food insecurity in our community. The program has been so successful, in fact, that the City of Columbus and Franklin County looked to Pearl Market to model a similar program called Veggie SNAPS. Capital Crossroads SID and Pearl Market Manager Adam Schroeder were instrumental in helping the city and county launch this program. Six local farmers' markets, including Pearl Market, Clintonville, Franklin Park Conservatory, Columbus Public Health, Franklinton Produce Stand and Bexley, run the program, which is funded by the city and county.
Both programs help make fresh, local produce more affordable for Central Ohio residents using the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
Just as the Puffin Foundation West grant did at Pearl Market, the Veggie SNAP program matches SNAP-users' dollars up to $10, doubling their purchase power at participating farmers' markets. Funding from the City of Columbus and Franklin County totals $20,000, while Puffin Foundation West's grant is $10,000.
"Increasing access to fresh fruits and vegetables is critical to improving the health of our community," said Mayor Michael B. Coleman. "By reducing obesity and the chronic diseases associated with it, we all benefit."
Pearl Market saw a 134 percent increase in SNAP transactions in 2013, and officials hope to see similar results throughout the participating markets.
"The produce that you purchase at a farmers' market was picked that morning or the night before, and is at its nutritional peak," said Pearl Market Manager Adam Schroeder. "Programs such as Veggie SNAPS not only create access and provide food sustainability for EBT users, but they also educate consumers and boost the local economy.
Studies have shown that dollars spent locally circulate through the community four to six times before leaving the community. So, in addition to boosting access to nutritional produce for those most in need, the program helps boost the economy of the entire community, including Ohio's top industry - agriculture.