FINI report, Year 1

In Year one, FINI supported incentive programs at almost 1,000 farmers markets, representing 4,000 direct marketing farmers in 27 states. These farmers market programs alone generated almost $8 million in SNAP and incentive sales spent on produce. Program evaluation conducted by grantees indicated uniformly high redemption rates, strong support for the program among stakeholders, and a great deal of collaboration from both public agencies and private program partners. These collaborations were particularly important in conducting outreach to SNAP recipients.

 

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What Data Can Do to Fight Poverty – The New York Times

I wonder if this research can is useful for food assistance incentive strategies: If allowing shoppers to use their incentive for any item at a market (rather than a hard commitment to just F&V) would ultimately create a more active (regular) marketgoer? And what about the search for food system leaders?

IF social scientists and policy makers have learned anything about how to help the world’s poorest people, it’s not to trust our intuitions or anecdotal evidence about what kinds of antipoverty programs are effective. Rigorous randomized evaluations of policies, however, can show us what works and what doesn’t.

Public primary school students were given the chance to deposit money weekly into a lockbox, and they were informed that their accumulated savings would be returned to them at a school-supplies fair at the beginning of the next trimester. Schools were randomly assigned to one of three groups. In the first group, students were offered a “hard” commitment: Their accumulated savings would be returned in the form of a voucher that had to be spent on school supplies. In the second group, students got a “soft” commitment: Their savings would be returned in cash, and could be spent as they wished. The third group of schools continued as normal, serving as a comparison group whose savings and spending money were also observed…. Students who got their savings back in cash saved more, and when the program was combined with parental involvement (which was also randomized), the students also bought more school supplies and achieved higher test scores.

The researchers randomly assigned some rural communities to receive advertisements for the jobs that announced opportunities for career advancement, whereas in other areas, the advertisements were silent on this issue. Contrary to expectation, the researchers reported in a working paper released last year, those recruited with “career” advertisements were more qualified and scored higher on exams during training, and also exhibited the same degree of emphasis on community service. The “go-getters” also outperformed the “do-gooders” on the job, seeing the same number of patients in their health clinics while conducting 29 percent more home visits and twice as many community health meetings.

These two insights — committing to cash savings, recruiting “go-getters” for community service jobs — are just the tip of the iceberg. We have found that pairing experts in behavioral science with “on the ground” teams of researchers and field workers has yielded many good ideas about how to address the problems of poverty. Hope and rhetoric are great for motivation, but not for figuring out what to do. There you need data.

 

Source: What Data Can Do to Fight Poverty – The New York Times

A summit for us: Atlanta 2016

A whirlwind of a week in Atlanta with Wholesome Wave and its “surfers”: markets, market advocates and food system organizers. Held at the Emory Conference Center in Atlanta GA, just down the road a block or two from the CDC offices. WW did a great job with the week: well-organized, great food and drink (thumbs up for the smoothies available each day) and plenty of space for networking and meetings. Atlanta was lovely and the rare off-site food and drink I had was excellent, but I gotta say that the traffic is as unholy of a mess as I have experienced in any US city. Talk about needing a quality of life intervention!

Highlights for the Summit for me included:

The WW Georgia market shopper who turned to good food to beat her cancer; she was charming in telling a very personal story on a panel and brave to share her still-emotional reaction to using SNAP, even while sharing her appreciation for the program.

Organizing for State Nutrition Incentive Policies : all of the presenters had unique input on their state’s strategy: Ecology Center (CA), Experimental Station (IL), Maryland Farmers Market Association and New Mexico Farming Market Association. This group: Martin, Connie, Amy and Denise have a lot to contribute to any discussion of how to move the dial at the state level.  Check out their varied work on their respective websites and if you have a chance to buttonhole any of them at a conference, tell them I told you to do it. And the short answer is to have a creative and flexible strategy that includes how to pay for it and a constant champion in your statehouse.

Clinic-Community Initiatives-Pathways to Sustainability: what I got out of this session was one of those unintended consequences: the analysis that MANNA has done of their program as a handout was one that responded to a question that our new FMC Research and Education Director Alex Canepa had just been asking earlier that day: can we get data that actually indicates positive health changes from medical nutrition therapy  strategies that offset traditional medical costs? See the Examining Health Care Costs Among MANNA Clients and a Comparison Group report…

The Role of Technology in Supporting Nutrition Incentives: For those of us gamely working on technology solutions for markets that support the range of no-tech, low-tech to high-tech markets out there, this was an in-depth and honest conversation. I sincerely appreciated Darcy Freedman from Case Western Reserve University talking about how the tool is half of the puzzle; the TA is the other half.

Measuring the Impact of Vouchers at Farmers Markets: I think the title threw some people off this one as well as the description. This covered the evaluation being done by University of Delaware/CRESP and led by Allison Karpyn on the incentives and vouchers funded by WW. Her powerpoint is available to those who request it (check with them or with WW) and I’d recommend that you get a copy. Allison shared some of the early data and was game to listen to input from the attendees about what they thought about it so far.

Measuring Markets Economic, Ecological, Human and Social Capital: Of course I chose this one. FMC Project Director Sara Padilla led the show, but Jen Cheek also popped up to add some updates on how FMC is embedding this into FMSSG reporting and she managed the lively Q&A as I roamed the room and made some notes for later conversations based on those questions. We had hoped to role play some of the training materials/exercises that will be embedded within FMM in this hour, but the room, the late hour and the lack of actual market leaders attending meant a quick change to describing it only and instead spent time sharing our thoughts on the components of grassroots evaluation, which seemed to be a good choice.  As I shared later with the rest of the FMC team, I think grassroots evaluation work is evolving slowly but surely and our work in this area seems to be helpful to markets and to their partners.

The FMC team also spent some time with the WW evaluation team  (shout out to Katie and Elizabeth for finding the time between their many conference duties), continuing to find ways to streamline and support both portals without duplication. I can tell you we are all committed to that goal….

Lastly, I left feeling that I just saw and heard and met a whole bunch of people who are doing some excellent network level work in their states. It felt like it has only at a few moments in the last 10 years: that there is some sensible support for contextual strategies for increasing access at markets, and some help to use that support to change policies for markets and their direct marketing producers. But, also an awareness that there is danger in markets or networks in diving in the too-deep water before they are ready, before they have a plan for what this extra work is meant to do for their markets and how it will absorb it. Because what we know is to attempt that before examining the culture of the market or the willingness of the market leadership to invest years in this type of intervention is foolhardy*. I’d also point out how that the lack of production-side advocates in attendance to talk about how these strategies were changing regional food production (for the good and for the bad) jarred me slightly and I’ll hope for better participation at future summits.

(*…. for all of those uncertainties here is the process to change them:  market communities becoming true partners in the design of their projects, taking the time to work with their community in this process long before the funding starts, leading or sharing in the data collection process as well as in the analysis of that project and beyond that, being brave about seeking and sharing evidence of all of the market’s impacts. And if that is where your community is at, I can tell you that there are some people ready and willing to do just that, many of whom I just saw in Atlanta.)

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Technology session, FMC’s Jen Cheek asking another good question from the floor

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WW’s Katie Merritt, chatting with FMC’s Sara Padilla and Alex Canepa pictured. WW’s Elizabeth Atwell  (back of her head showing), Jen Cheek and yours truly also present

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Allison Karpyn’s incentive evaluation presentation

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FMC’s FMM presentation

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FMC’s audience involvement spectrum

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One of only 2 off-site meals, this one had with WW’s Gabrielle Langholtz who sang Hamilton the musical songs to the waiter. Not odd behavior if you know her…

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The food we ordered off that chalkboard menu; all great.

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The dog that came with my airbnb, Sadie, wondering why I am leaving so early on a cold day..

 

Self-administered survey-New Orleans Market Match user

This is (basically) the same system that Crescent City Farmers Market (CCFM) in New Orleans has used to gather data from incentive users (incentiv-ers?) since they began doing them some years back. They call their incentive Market Match.

As one of the staff who was responsible for doing it when it began and was part of the discussion about it, I really liked it. It is on a pad that is pulled off to have the person fill out and then each slip is added to the clipboard (or put in a container) to be entered into spreadsheets at a later time. The darker grey is filled out by the market staff person after the other part is completed by the shopper. What I know is that the system was designed with both the shopper and the market staff needs in minds, which as we all know is important and yet not always done. I’d like them to be numbered chronologically so as to know that none were lost. Maybe they are numbered, I’ll check to see.

Sorry for the wrinkles- it ended up in my market bag under the citrus. I’ll get some more pics of their system-including a better version of this and maybe the other collection forms if they will allow me to continue to peek over their shoulder.

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A badge, a gun and a box of oatmeal | Minnesota Public Radio News

hmmm, maybe this will lead to expanding farmers market incentives coupons for police or EMT to carry with them to hand out when they see fit? Adding locations and specific instructions on the coupon face as to how to use them?
A badge, a gun and a box of oatmeal | Minnesota Public Radio News.

FINI programs funded for FY 2015/2016

Congratulations!

USDA is funding projects in 26 states for up to 4 years, using funds from FY2014 and FY2015. USDA will issue a separate request for applications in FY16, and in subsequent years. Fiscal year 2014 and 2015 awards are:

Pilot projects (up to $100,000, not to exceed 1 year):

Yolo County Department of Employment and Social Services, Woodland, Calif., $100,000
Heritage Ranch, Inc., Honaunau, Hawaii, $100,000
Backyard Harvest, Inc., Moscow, Idaho, $10,695
City of Aurora, Aurora, Ill., $30,000
Forsyth Farmers’ Market, Inc., Savannah, Ga., $50,000
Blue Grass Community Foundation, Lexington, Ky., $47,250
Lower Phalen Creek Project, Saint Paul, Minn., $45,230
Vermont Farm-to-School, Inc., Newport, V.T., $93,750
New Mexico Farmers Marketing Association, Santa Fe, N.M., $99,999
Santa Fe Community Foundation, Santa Fe, N.M., $100,000
Guilford County Department of Health and Human Services, Greensboro, N.C., $99,987
Chester County Food Bank, Exton, Pa., $76,543
Nurture Nature Center, Easton, Pa., $56,918
Rodale Institute, Kutztown, Pa., $46,442
Rhode Island Public Health Institute, Providence, R.I., $100,000
San Antonio Food Bank, San Antonio, Texas, $100,000
Multi-year community-based projects (up to $500,000, not to exceed 4 years):

Mandela Marketplace, Inc., Oakland, Calif., $422,500
Market Umbrella, New Orleans, La., $378,326
Maine Farmland Trust, Belfast, Maine, $249,816
Farmers Market Fund, Portland, Ore., $499,172
The Food Trust, Philadelphia, Pa., $500,000
Utahns Against Hunger, Salt Lake City, Utah, $247,038
Opportunity Council, Bellingham, Wash., $301,658
Multi-year large-scale projects ($500,000 or greater, not to exceed 4 years):

Ecology Center, Berkeley, Calif., $3,704,287
Wholesome Wave Foundation Charitable Ventures, Inc., Bridgeport, Conn., $3,775,700
AARP Foundation, Washington, D.C., $3,306,224
Florida Certified Organic Growers and Consumers, Gainesville, Fla., $1,937,179
Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance, Boston, Mass., $3,401,384
Fair Food Network, Ann Arbor, Mich., $5,171,779
International Rescue Committee, Inc., New York, N.Y., $564,231
Washington State Department of Health, Tumwater, Wash., $5,859,307
Descriptions of the funded projects are available on the NIFA website.

Giving Business the Incentive to Promote Healthy Lifestyles

Love the article linked below; it’s an overview of incentives given to business to encourage healthy behaviors. For those of you that have heard my spiel on how the 1970s emergence of the farmers markets movement has focused on incentivizing behavior changes of all kinds with buying rewards (frequent shopper cards, raffles/giveaways), added social interaction (music or entertainment), knowledge increase (cooking demos) and so on you might see how the most recent addition of cash incentives for low-income citizens to find their way to us is simply another example of that strategy.

This article shows that many businesses are using the same strategy when adding benefits to their community and therefore, markets should see that they stand proudly as innovative leaders in incentivizing good health and wealth. AND markets should use this strategy in as many ways as they can to continue to increase everyone’s changes, including vendors, neighbors, and shoppers in every socioeconomic strata.

Giving Business the Incentive to Promote Healthy Lifestyles | Community Commons.

Credit Card Payments Market Competition

Here is a link to an excerpt on the politics of credit card systems. It illuminates how startups companies wanting to provide services face difficulties, including this:

Two pieces in the chain are particularly vulnerable to disruption: the makers of the actual hardware — basically card readers and registers — that are used to physically accept card payments at stores, and the hundreds of vendors known as merchant service providers, or MSPs, which set businesses up to accept credit cards.

The entire article (unfortunately you must pay to get it) speaks to some of the issues we are facing with MobileMarket et al in expanding technology to lower capacity markets and farmers. It also shows the need for the food movement to embed knowledge on card and currency issues so that we stay ahead or at least on the curve of changes, rather than being pawns of the very small set of multi-national players in technology and card processing. If, like me, you accessed the entire article (or others like it) and want to have a conversation, I’m interested in talking about these issues in more depth. Feel free to contact me…

Credit Card Payments Market Competition 2 – Business Insider.

an excerpt from another article on the subject raises many of the same questions:

“…with the global roll-out of mobile payment services comes uncertainty for both banks and consumers, and this is evident in the lack of standardization in mobile payments technology. Financial institutions are facing a major dilemma. When planning mobile payment services, they need to select one of the available technologies in the hope that it will become the dominant standard, or they risk being left behind.”

Market Benefit and Incentives PPT-Vermont 2013 – Helping Public Markets Grow

Since I’m back in Vermont for the 2014 Direct Marketing Conference, I decided to upload the Power Point from the 2013 Wholesome Wave convening that Erin Buckwalter of NOFA-VT and I gave about the 2013 Vermont Market Currency Report. I’ll add notes for each slide sometime in the next month or two but the data will still be helpful to many.

Market Benefit and Incentives PPT-Vermont 2013 – Helping Public Markets Grow.

New Nationwide Study Shows SNAP Incentives at Farmers’ Markets Boost Healthy Eating, Support Farmers, and Grow Local Economies | Fair Food Network

From the conclusion:

A minority of funds went unused. Possible reasons for this gap include that tokens were lost, misplaced, or reserved for a future visit that did not occur. Regardless, a loss in purchasing power negatively affects the financial benefits provided by the incentive program, and means that SNAP participants have fewer funds to mitigate food insecurity. Future work should strive to better understand this problem in various communities and test innovative solutions to increase SNAP redemption rates. Additionally, further exploration will be helpful to determine what maximum amount of SNAP benefits
matched maximizes participation by SNAP customers. To better understand the health impacts on individuals who use SNAP incentives to purchase fresh produce, future research also should explore changes in consumption and other health behavior. Finally, examining the relationship between various implementation strategies and reported changes in consumers, vendors, and markets will help better identify promising practices for effective incentive programs. The cluster evaluation documented program innovations; influences of incentive programs on consumers, vendors, and markets; and lessons learned to inform a fragmented field of practice. The cluster program organizations are poised and ready to share what they are learning about effective program management, marketing, funding, capacity building, sustainability strategies, and achieving desired outcomes with fellow practitioners. After sharing program experiences, program implementation, and outcome data, and advancing ideas on how best to advance and implement solutions to food system issues of common concern through this cluster evaluation, the programs are exploring plans to launch an online “Learning Community” that would bring more program coherence to the field of practice and increase the field’s capacity to be more impactful.

New Nationwide Study Shows SNAP Incentives at Farmers’ Markets Boost Healthy Eating, Support Farmers, and Grow Local Economies | Fair Food Network.

First New Orleans recipient of Fresh Food Retail Initiative closes, puts store on market | The Lens

A Central City grocery store that received a low-interest loan under a city-funded program to bring fresh foods to under-served neighborhoods has been closed and placed on the market.

Owner Doug Kariker said the store was too much work. “I can’t do it anymore,” he said. The store was not profitable, he said, “but in our business plan, we didn’t expect it to be” in the first year.

First recipient of Fresh Food Retail Initiative closes, puts store on market | The Lens.

MarketUmbrella releases report on SFMNP incentive project

I’ve always been very proud of the very active way that my old workplace promoted FMNP in Louisiana. Since FMNP’s inception in Louisiana, MU’s markets have been at the forefront of expanding the program’s reach and redemption levels.
The FMNP incentive idea is a great one and allows seniors to continue shopping after their booklet was spent: they bring their empty booklet to the Welcome Booth and get 24.00 more in tokens to spend throughout the year, on any item.
With amenities like senior bingo, guided trips through the market and lots of assistance from staff, senior numbers continue to grow (by more than a thousand seniors!) at all three of their markets and their Field Note shows how the staff made it happen. Medium to large markets can certainly benefit from this report.

MU report