More low-income residents are eating healthier as a result of Seattle’s food access program
Residents with low incomes are purchasing more fruits and vegetables at Seattle and King County farmers markets and neighborhood grocery stores —helping them eat healthier and supporting local farmers. Recent data shows that Fresh Bucks sales at farmers markets and grocery stores in the first two months of 2018 increased 163% over last year.
The Fresh Bucks program provides a dollar-for-dollar match of SNAP benefits (food stamp) spent at participating Seattle and King County farmers markets and participating neighborhood grocers. Fresh Bucks has continued to grow in the number of shoppers each year, with more than 68,000 Fresh Bucks transactions since launch in 2012. The Seattle Office of Sustainability & Environment (OSE) administers the Fresh Bucks program in Seattle.
“Fresh Bucks has really been a tremendous asset to our community,” said Sam Kielty, manager of the West Seattle Farmers Market. The farmers love it because it’s bringing new shoppers to our markets and the shoppers love it because it’s such a good value and makes a significant improvement in what they and their families eat.”
A recent survey of Fresh Bucks participants revealed that 61% get at least half of their produce through the Fresh Bucks program and participants generally consumed more fruits and vegetables than average consumers.
Cost is a primary barrier for people with low incomes to eating fresh fruits and vegetables. OSE recently lifted the match limit for Fresh Bucks transactions to increase affordability even further. Previously, shoppers were limited to a $10 per-transaction maximum which allowed shoppers to receive $10 in Fresh Bucks for a total of $20 available to spend per visit. Now, there is no limit as to how much Fresh Bucks a shopper can access to match SNAP benefits when purchasing produce at a farmers market or participating grocer. Fresh Bucks is supported by funding from Seattle’s Sweetened Beverage Tax.
Last year, OSE launched a pilot to make Fresh Bucks available at six Somali- and Latino-owned neighborhood groceries. This expansion has been especially helpful in the winter months, when fewer farmers markets are open. These stores are also open daily, creating convenient options for people to use Fresh Bucks.
With funding from Seattle’s Sweetened Beverage Tax, Seattle will continue to expand Fresh Bucks through greater shopper participation, partnerships with larger grocers, and increased use of Fresh Bucks Rx—where medical providers provide patients with “prescriptions” for fruits and vegetables to be redeemed at participating grocers and farmers markets.
“For those of us who have enough to eat, it’s easy to take for granted our ability to include fresh local produce in our meals,” said Jessica Finn Coven, Director of the Seattle Office of Sustainability & Environment. “Fresh Bucks makes it possible for people who are burdened by food insecurity to afford healthy food. Fresh Bucks is an excellent tool to improve health outcomes for Seattle residents while supporting our local economy.”