The Athens Farmers Market is located in Ohio’s rural, southeast corner. The market’s mission is to offer business opportunities to regional growers and producers, as well as provide a place for the Athens’ community to buy fresh, local food. Like other Appalachian communities, Athens’ residents have been suffering from high rates of poverty and unemployment for years. But, the market is a bright spot in Athens, and has strived to be a welcoming place for people from all socioeconomic backgrounds since its inception.
To increase the market’s ability to serve the entire Athens’ community, especially its low-income residents, market organizers began accepting SNAP in 2007. Knowing that the project would only be successful if they created a multi-faceted approach to implementation they set about: training vendors, cultivating partnerships with Athens County Job and Family Services who administers SNAP, developing an incentive program and creating promotional materials.
The market’s partnership with Athens County Job and Family Services provided funding for staffing and marketing and helped connect their SNAP clients to the market. They were also helpful in advising on the types of promotional materials and efforts that would work best for attracting new customers.
In July 2008, the Athens Farmers Market offered $5 incentive coupons to SNAP customers to encourage them to shop at the market. Customer participation climbed and even after the incentive program was over the number of SNAP customers shopping at the market continued to grow.
From the beginning, the Athens Farmers Market SNAP project has been attracting new customers and allowing current customers the ability to buy more food for their families. Dedication to the project from the market’s management, vendors and partners, as well as a deep understanding of the Athens community has been rewarded by SNAP sales that are some of the highest in Ohio.