Incentives for Healthy Living:
Increasing Spending Power at Farmers’ Markets
Creating healthier eating habits is vital to community health. Working with farmers’ markets in low-income communities led Everyone’s Harvest to recognize the need for incentives to encourage families to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables. Three activities, together called Incentives for Healthy Living, all focus on making healthy food more accessible to Monterey County residents while also benefiting small and mid-size farmers.
Market Match matches customers’ federal nutrition assistance, such as CalFresh benefits, today’s food stamps. It empowers low-income customers to make healthy food choices. When a customer spends $10 of CalFresh benefits at an Everyone’s Harvest market, they receive an additional $10 to buy fresh produce. Market Match increases CalFresh usage at the farmers’ markets, increasing sales by farmers.
The newest incentive is Fresh Rx, which started in 2014. This innovative partnership between healthcare providers and farmers’ markets focuses on preventive health care to fight the rise of chronic diseases related to diet and body weight. Doctors “prescribe” fresh fruits and vegetables to young overweight patients and direct them to the farmers’ markets where they can receive $25 worth of fresh produce weekly. The program began in 2014 with 8 patients at a local health clinic. In 2016 over 100 families participated, and Everyone’s Harvest distributed over $45,000 in healthy, local fruits and vegetables. Results tracked by the doctors show healthy decreases in participants’ overall body mass index and other positive health indicators.
Since 2010, Everyone’s Harvest has distributed and redeemed over $100,000 thousand dollars’ worth of Healthy Incentives to bridge the gap between healthy fresh produce and people in need of it.
This program would not be possible without the funders of the FreshRx: Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare, Community Foundation of Monterey County- Opportunity Grants Program, Monterey County Gives Campaign, Natividad Medical Center, and private donors.
This work is so important because the majority of chronic diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure, are related to poor diet. Our U.S. Surgeon General states: Our nation’s biggest health problem is obesity and its diet-related diseases. It’s the fastest-growing cause of disease and death in America. And it’s completely preventable. Eating nutritious fresh fruits and vegetables is key.