For the last 3 years, a USDA Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) grant funded the nutrition incentive program (Maine Harvest Bucks) at farmers’ markets in Maine. With these funds, over 30 farmers’ markets have organized and built the systems and infrastructure to make their markets a welcoming place for low-income Mainers who shop with SNAP/EBT. In the past 2 years, our markets have welcomed thousands of new SNAP shoppers and brought over $160,000 worth of Maine-grown fruits and vegetables onto their tables through Maine Harvest Bucks. A job well done, with great potential ahead!
This year, MFFM joined forces with other Maine nonprofits and four other New England states to submit a USDA FINI grant proposal to fund Maine Harvest Bucks for another four years. We’ve also applied for a grant that could provide funding over the summer, and will keep looking for other revenue for the Maine Harvest Bucks program in 2018. If all goes as planned, the lean period this year will be April, May,and June, before the new grant funds may become available. MFFM is here to support all markets across the state in their MHB programming, but each market will need to determine the best way to keep their MHB program active into June.
Make a Strategy
- Formulate a budget.
- Who will reach out to local businesses/ partners for support?
- How will you let your SNAP/MHB shoppers know if there’s a change?
- To cover: incentive/MHB redemption; printing of vouchers; flyers and outreach for beginning of season.
- Read this new fundraising page for more ideas and resources.
- 90% of MHB markets will have to raise less than $500 to cover April to June MHB redemption
- Keep clear and consistent communications with your SNAP shoppers.
- Funding is not disappearing; no need to sound alarms or start rumors.
- If your market is modifying normal MHB operations from Apr- June, get the word out and let shoppers know.
- Keep messaging positive; negativity spreads too easily.
- Inform and involve more market members to pitch in and reach out for support.
- Let the community know your need!
- Maine Harvest Bucks is a great program that many people will want to get behind and support!
- April to June are the slowest months for FM’s and MHB redemption. This funding gap is an opportunity to share the great work your market is doing to support low-income shoppers and the local economy.
There are no guarantees….
The elephant in the room is that there’s a chance MFFM’s grant proposals will be declined. This would obviously be a setback for the momentum that we all have helped to build in growing the Maine Harvest Bucks brand and helping to make local food more accessible to SNAP shoppers. We expect to learn of our grant application(s) status by June. We’ll keep you updated promptly as the news comes in.