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LEAP has seen use of SNAP skyrocket at our farmers markets in recent years. In early 2022, SNAP use was up 117 percent over the same time in 2021. Customers participating in Virginia Fresh Match (a statewide program that doubles the value of SNAP on purchases of fruits and vegetables) bumped sales at LEAP's markets 93 percent over sales during the same time in 2021. This tells us that people who receive these incentives are hungry for healthy food. They are showing up to spend their SNAP dollars not at the chain grocery store but at LEAP's Mobile Market and farmers markets.
But not everyone who is hungry or struggles to access fresh food qualifies for SNAP. Sometimes small income fluctuations can affect qualification in these programs. Changes in federal rules can make previously depended-on benefits disappear overnight.
LEAP's Market Bucks program can bridge the gap.
Research shows that when people who have a tough time accessing fruits and vegetables are able to afford them, whole communities become healthier.
Fields Edge Farm
Restoration Acres Farm
The Professor’s Garden
Garden Variety Harvests
Gracious Day Milling, LLC
Kind Baking Co
Cat’s Cooking Co
Virgo Pharms LLC
Singing Spring Farm
The Shaving Cup
Nest Art Studio
The Market Bucks program actually encompasses Market Bucks and Harvest Bucks. Both Market and Harvest Bucks are paper vouchers, available in increments of $5, $10, and $15. Community organizations that serve individuals and families who are low income and food insecure can purchase these vouchers and distribute them to their clients. Market Bucks can be spent on any SNAP-eligible food item. Harvest Bucks can only be spent on fruits and vegetables. Organizations can purchase just Market Bucks, just Harvest Bucks, or a combination. Offering Harvest Bucks alone incentivizes the purchase of fruits and vegetables. Market and Harvest Bucks can be redeemed at any LEAP market — Grandin Village Farmers Market, West End Farmers Market, the LEAP Mobile Market, and LEAP's Online Marketplace.
When clients arrive at a farmers market with Market or Harvest Bucks, they redeem them at the market manager’s table. The market manager provides clients with tokens that are spent like cash at vendor booths. (Black tokens for Market Bucks, red tokens for Harvest Bucks.) On the LEAP Mobile Market, clients choose their food and pay for it with the Market and Harvest Bucks. Market and Harvest Bucks are coded to a particular organization. LEAP invoices the distributing organizations monthly for Market and Harvest Bucks that are redeemed or “spent.”
This program is designed to reach individuals and families who struggle to access or afford fresh fruits and vegetables. By working through organizations rooted in communities, LEAP can provide fresh produce to people who want and need it.
But the way the program is set up, any organization or even business can purchase Market and Harvest Bucks. For example, a business could request that the LEAP Mobile Market set up in its parking lot. Employees could be allowed to choose $10 worth of food from the Mobile Market at no cost to them. LEAP could then invoice the business for those purchases. A business might do this to make an investment in local agriculture and small food-producing businesses, while also providing nutritious food for its employees.
A few examples of organizations and nonprofits purchasing Market and Harvest Bucks for their clients: CHIP of the Roanoke Valley, Casa Latina, and the Community Youth Program.
There are many community organizations that would like to offer Market Bucks and Harvest Bucks to their clients but cannot afford to. Other nonprofits who are participating have more need than they have budget. Support from funding partners allows LEAP to purchase more locally grown fruits and vegetables to feed to individuals and families who need help accessing fresh food.
LEAP has been piloting and fine-tuning the work of connecting underserved communities with nutritious food for more than a decade. We've listened to our clients and we know how to help them improve health through a better diet. But behavior change is a long-term investment. LEAP needs sustaining donors to create successful outcomes.
LEAP fundraises, applies for grants, and seeks sponsorships in order to feed more fresh food to those who have the hardest time affording it. To fulfill this mission, LEAP has some funding available. Preference will be given to small, community-centered organizations and organizations able to apply for grants using LEAP monies as matching funds.