At the BTLT Farmers’ Market, we work hard to ensure folks from all socioeconomic backgrounds have the opportunity to access fresh produce and feel invited to participate in our local food system. Our Market works with the Maine Federation of Farmers Markets (MFFM) to participate in several food access programs including SNAP, Maine Harvest Bucks, and Bumper Crop.
This year, we saw an increase in the use of SNAP benefits at our Market! MFFM launched a postcard mailing for SNAP users in Brunswick, bringing about a dozen new SNAP shoppers to the Market. Both the Brunswick Downtown Market and the Brunswick Winter Market have started participating in the SNAP program this season creating more opportunities to access food in our community. With these additions, all five farmers markets in the region are accessible to SNAP families.
The Maine Harvest Bucks program offers bonus vouchers for SNAP users to spend on fresh produce. The match shifted from last year’s 1:1 match to a 2:1 (50%) match of SNAP transactions. This change was due to an increase in the use of the program which has strained the funding. MFFM is currently fundraising to support the Harvest Bucks program. In 2021 $1.2 million was spent with local food producers through SNAP and Maine Harvest Bucks, according to MFFM.
BTLT has continued to participate in the Bumper Crop, a workplace wellness program developed by the Maine Federation of Farmers Markets that provides employees with vouchers to be spent at farmers markets. The program has continued to expand with employers across the state and the number of participating farmers markets. While BTLT’s Bumper Crop voucher use was lower this season, other markets in the area have joined the program resulting in a net increase in use in our communities. If you are an employer or an employee in Maine and think this program would be a good fit for your company or organization, you can learn more here.
We are also excited to share that we are continuing to expand our food access programming with a new Pop Club program for the 2023 season. POP Clubs provide youth at Farmers Markets with vouchers to spend on fruits and veggies, encouraging exploration of foods and healthy eating, early engagement in local food systems and agriculture, and providing more income to local producers. Vendors are encouraged to partake in POP Club programs by offering “POP” deals for kids. We are looking forward to launching this program in the spring and continuing to explore more ways to expand food access and invite more folks to our Market!