Good Food Bucks: Putting Families First

Written and submitted by: Lisa Martin, Director of Food Access, City Green

City Green’s Garden State Good Food Network (GSGFN) is a statewide farmers’ market incentive program for New Jersey’s SNAP, WIC, and Senior FMNP shoppers. Through this program, anytime a SNAP, WIC, or Senior FMNP customer uses their Families First EBT card at a participating market, they receive a dollar-for-dollar match in “Good Food Buck” incentive dollars for more fruits and vegetables. Five dollars becomes ten, and ten dollars becomes twenty. This not only doubles the purchasing power of SNAP customers, allowing them to put more food on their tables, but provides additional income support for our local farmers and producers. The GSGFN builds direct connections between the state’s nearly 750,000 SNAP recipients and over 50 local New Jersey farmers.

In 2020, our longstanding partners at the Montclair Farmers Market (MFM) offered this nutrition incentive program alongside City Green’s own Veggie Mobile Farm Stand and CSA’s programs to make healthy, local food available and affordable to everyone in 2020. Nearly 1,800 people who use SNAP, WIC, and Senior FMNP nutrition assistance benefits redeemed $25,500 of Good Food Buck incentives at City Green Veggie Mobile Farm Stands and CSA, and at the Montclair Farmers Market. The Veggie Mobile helped to bring food to a variety of partner sites throughout Passaic and Essex counties, including the Bloomfield Public Library, Caldwell Community Center, Evergreen Manor Senior Residences, Hazel St. Senior Housing, and the City Green Farm Eco-Center in Clifton.

Operating in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, unprecedented burdens were placed on businesses, families, and nearly every industry, with a record number of people applying for unemployment benefits. Through this economic hardship, a safe and reliable food supply was paramount. As more people became reliant on federal nutrition assistance programs like SNAP and WIC, incentive programs like Good Food Bucks were more essential than ever. Adrian Diaz, Montclair Farmers Market’s Double Value Coupon Coordinator, shared during the season that “The market might feel a little different in 2020 with new security measures in place, but our community can still count on Good Food Bucks every week, and this has been a breath of fresh air. During these uncertain times, the market and program have provided customers with a sense of normalcy. Every week I see customers delighted to find our tent, excited to tell me about the produce they plan on buying or their favorite recipe. Many of these customers were afraid that the program would not be available this year because of the pandemic. Others were worried that they wouldn’t be able to afford shopping at the market without Good Food Bucks. It’s comforting to know that they can still rely on our program, even in a year as difficult as this one.”

The Good Food Buck program works to give individuals and families a hand up when it can be difficult to make ends meet, while also putting money back into the local economy. A Good Food Buck shopper shared, “This program means a lot to me and my family. I want my kids to grow up eating healthy. It isn’t easy for us to buy fresh foods all the time. We never shopped at a farmers market before this year. At first it was very different for us but we really love coming here now. We’re thankful for the program and all the fresh foods we can have at home now.”

The program is a win-win-win for NJ residents, local farmers, and communities, and this funding opportunity from Partners for Health Foundation, with additional support from other private foundations, helps to make healthy, local food accessible for all of our neighbors!