05 September 2013

Feast on Freshness

From Deborah Pleva at Weinstein PR

Farmers Market Fund, an independent charitable companion organization to Portland Farmers Market, dedicated to providing low-income, elderly and under-served populations in the region increased access to healthy, locally grown food, has produced Feast on Freshness, a beautiful guide targeted at low-income seniors and families to help address and overcome perceived barriers to shopping at farmers markets.

The research behind was gathered through in-depth focus group conversations with low-income seniors and families. The project was made possible through a grant from the Templeton Foundation.

“We really wanted to understand what would inspire underserved members of the community to shop at farmers markets. This grant-funded research allowed us to identify their perceptions and then create promotions, programs and marketing materials to help dissolve them,” said Rosemarie Sweet, Board President of Farmers Market Fund.

The project’s research pinpointed key motivators and incentives for seniors to attend farmers markets, including special senior days and discounts, ensuring seating at the markets and providing simple recipes. The key barriers for seniors in attending farmers markets include the limited days and hours of markets, transportation and where to find information about markets.

For families, the key motivators and incentives to attend farmers markets include pricing incentives, access to information about market locations and activities for their children. Although they recognize the health benefits, price is perceived as a key barrier.

Noted Sweet, “Both groups mentioned that eating healthily was a priority for them, and that price was a barrier for them. Knowing this, we included information on how to be healthy on a budget and highlighted the farmers markets in the area that offer SNAP matching or other money saving programs.”

The Feast on Freshness guide recommends:

  • Utilizing SNAP/Oregon Trail benefits at farmers markets
  • Seeking out farmers markets that offer SNAP matching or other nutritional incentive programs. (For example, through Farmers Market Fund’s Fresh Exchange program, SNAP shoppers receive a dollar-for-dollar match – up to an additional $5 per week – to spend with market vendors at Portland Farmers Market’s King, Buckman, Northwest and Kenton locations.)
  • Choosing nutrient-dense produce
  • Purchasing peak-of-the season produce and preserving it
  • Purchasing whole produce rather than expensive pre-cut, pre-washed and processed foods
  • Starting a garden and growing produce at home

Other research findings included that seniors are less price-conscious than young families and more concerned about supporting the local community. Neither group relies primarily on the Internet for information about food or shopping, a fact that will inform Farmer Market Fund’s choice of communications channels. Both groups are challenged by transportation; either they don’t have someone to take them to a farmers market or they find carrying groceries on the bus to be overly cumbersome. Currently, transportation is not something that Farmers Market Fund can address.

To help shape the guide, Farmers Market Fund contacted, The Rede Group, who conducted the focus group interviews. Translation of the research and production of the guide was done with the expertise of the Portland creative firm, Sockeye.

Feast on Freshness will be distributed throughout Portland and will broaden Farmers Market Fund’s partnerships with social service organizations and government agencies that share target populations. Farmers Market Fund is printing 1000 copies and will distribute them via agencies near farmers markets in the City of Portland, including NW Housing Alternatives, Albina Head Start, the Northeast WIC Clinic and the SE Multicultural Center.

“We are grateful to the Templeton Foundation for their generous support in making this project possible. The results of the focus groups have increased our overall knowledge about the populations we serve and the guides will help ensure that low-income community members have access to Oregon’s bountiful produce,” said Sweet.

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