Alternative Farmers’ Market Currencies & Local Businesses

Article Author: 
Sally Buice, CAC AmeriCorps VISTA Member 2017-2018

I’m spending this year serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA with Nourish Knoxville, a nonprofit organization working in the East Tennessee region to cultivate and support relationships between farmers, artisanal producers, and the community through outreach, education, and advocacy, and to build healthy communities through connections to local food. Nourish Knoxville runs three farmers’ markets throughout the year, so we spend a lot of our time working with small business owners who sell their products at our markets.

sallysmallOne of my projects for this year is expanding the Fre$h Savings program at our markets, a program funded through the AARP Foundation that allows customers at farmers’ markets and grocery stores across Tennessee and Mississippi to double the value for their SNAP benefits. Customers swipe their EBT cards for up to $20, and we’ll double their SNAP benefits with Fre$h Savings tokens, which can be spent on any fresh fruit or vegetable at the market. Since the program was started back in the beginning of 2016, we’ve seen an amazing increase in spending of SNAP benefits at our markets. We also offer free kids’ educational programming at our markets, where kids can come taste a fruit or vegetable, participate in an activity related to food, nutrition, or farming, and get $5 in vouchers to spend at the market. This allows kids to have purchasing power and make their own shopping decisions when they come to the market.

POPSmallThese programs are so valuable because they help us to expand access to healthy food while supporting small businesses in our community. During our 2017 market season from May to November, we distributed $10,078 in Fre$h Savings SNAP benefit doubling money, and $4,064 in vouchers for kids to spend at the market. This money is spent with a variety of farmers and local business owners, which helps to make it worthwhile for them to come to our markets and sell their products locally. It’s a win-win situation for everyone involved, and I’m glad that my service as an AmeriCorps VISTA helps to make it possible!

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This blog post is a collection of personal reflections and expressions. All opinions represented are those of the author and do not represent the official opinion or views of the Knoxville – Knox County Community Action Committee, CAC AmeriCorps or any other party referenced.


Published by

Jason Scott

CAC AmeriCorps Program Director Since 2015.