Farmers Market Access by Snap-eligible Mothers of Young Children: Barriers and Impact on Nutrition Education Programming for Cooperative Extension
Providing improved access to farmers markets and other local food outlets for low-income audiences is an increasingly popular nutrition intervention strategy to promote consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables and address obesity. The USDA encouraged more farm to fork initiatives and efforts to connect low-income populations with fresh and healthy, local foods through farmers markets through the implementation of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Nutrition Education (SNAP-Ed) provisions of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. The purpose of this research was to assess the perceived barriers to farmers market access and strategies for overcoming those barriers for low-income individuals and families participating in Cooperative Extension nutrition programming. Data collection procedures included a survey of SNAP-Ed and the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) program assistants, focus group discussions with SNAP-eligible individuals, and a photo elicitation study with mothers of young children. Results from these studies provide insight on how to structure program assistant trainings to encourage the inclusion of an optional farmers market orientation lesson in SNAP-Ed and EFNEP curricula; low-income individuals' perception of healthy food, access to and perception of local foods, benefits and barriers to shopping at farmers markets, and the impact of local foods on diet quality; and how to address perceived barriers through Cooperative Extension nutrition programming for the SNAP-Ed and ENFEP target population of SNAP-eligible mothers of young children. Working with farmers markets is an opportunity to form greater synergy between the arms of Extension (Family and
Consumer Sciences, Community Viability, Agriculture and Natural Resources, and potentially 4-H) related to supporting local food systems while forming collaborative relationships with local farmers markets and community members.