Tag Archives: food security

Farmers Market SNAP Challenge Resources

Farmers Market SNAP Challenge

Why would I want to voluntarily cut back to a bare bones food budget? How in the world can I eat healthy for so little money? What makes this a Farmers Market SNAP Challenge? How does this affect me? These are some common questions you might be asking yourself as you consider or plan for the Farmers Market SNAP Challenge.

Why does it Matter?

As we talked about before, the Challenge is an exercise in empathy to experience just how difficult it is to eat healthy on a SNAP Budget and experience how essential the SNAP Incentive Program at the Blacksburg Farmers Market is to helping the 3,441 hungry families in the local community. The Feeding America Southwest Virginia recently presented startling statistics on the prevalence of hunger in our region that highlights how many families are struggling to put food on the table, even when receiving SNAP and other food assistance.

Spent is another informative way to gain a better understanding of the daily struggle of limited-resource families doing their best to make ends meet. Play Spent here and see how well you can juggle the competing demands on limited funds.

You can read more facts about the SNAP program here. This resource (and the others linked to on that page) give an eye-opening look at the true picture of the SNAP program and its impacts on food insecurity, health, and the surrounding community.

How to Balance Nutrition and Cost During the Challenge

Eating healthy on a budget is tricky and doing so on a SNAP budget is even more difficult. Using the following strategies will help you stick to $52 for the entire week.

  • Part of the message of the Farmers Market SNAP Challenge is how beneficial the SNAP Incentive Program is for stretching food dollars while purchasing fresh, local food. By shopping at the Blacksburg Farmers Market on Saturday and Wednesday during the Challenge, you are seeing the advantage of the extra $10 match per visit, allowing your Challenge budget to be set at $52 instead of the average $32 most Virginia SNAP recipients have. (This post has more specifics on how we calculated the Challenge food budget.)
  • Along with the SNAP Incentive Program, shopping at farmers markets can save money by taking advantage of the lower prices of seasonal foods. Check out this post for some Fall produce recipe ideas.
  • A new cookbook is available that was written to provide Good and Cheap recipe ideas that fit on an average SNAP budget. If you use any of these recipes, let us know how they turn out. They look delicious!
  • Make a meal plan and stick to it. SNAP recipients don’t wing it if they want to make their food last all month and you shouldn’t either.

What other questions do you have when thinking about the Farmers Market SNAP Challenge? Share them below and we’ll do our best to help!

Farmers Market SNAP Challenge Guidelines

Take the Farmers Market SNAP Challenge

  1. Sign Up for the Farmers Market SNAP Challenge
  2. Join the discussion on social media using #fmSNAPchallenge.
  3. Attend the SNAP Challenge Social at the Blacksburg Farmers Market.
  4. Support the Blacksburg Farmers Market SNAP Incentive Program or your favorite hunger relief organization. You can specify your donation to support the Blacksburg Farmers Market’s SNAP Incentive Program by putting it in the memo line of your check.


Virginia Farmers Market SNAP Challenge

SNAP Challenge Guidelines

  1. You are pledging to limit your food shopping to $7.50 per day per person for a total of $52 for the week, $40 of which should be spent at the Farmers Market. As with SNAP regulations, this amount does not include hot prepared foods (like hot rotisserie chickens), restaurant meals, or alcohol, as these are not allowable purchases with SNAP funds.
  2. You can use whatever cooking oils, dried herbs, and spices you already have in your pantry.
  3. You can use any home-grown or home-preserved (not store bought) produce that you already have.
  4. If during the Challenge, you are offered free foods, such as at a meeting or social function, you can enjoy these. For many families on SNAP, these sources of food help stretch food budgets.
  5. In the spirit of raising awareness of hunger in the community, please share your experiences, positive or negative, on social media using #fmSNAPchallenge. Pictures of your grocery shopping, your meals, or your emotions are encouraged. Participate in online discussion of the #fmSNAPchallenge on Facebook, Twitter, and this blog. We will be posting resources and daily reflections throughout the Challenge.

The purpose of the Challenge is to experience the difficulty of eating healthy on a SNAP budget, raise awareness of hunger in the community, and support the SNAP Incentive Program at the Blacksburg Farmers Market.

The “S” in SNAP stands for Supplemental, which means that this food budget is not supposed to provide 100% of a person’s needs, although for many hungry families, it is the only money available to feed themselves. Knowing this, you may not be able to stay on-budget or eat as well as you’d like and that is okay. What changes did you try to make to your usual shopping habits for the Challenge? Did they work or not? These are the kinds of thoughts the Challenge is intended to raise.

Tweet: I’m taking the #fmSNAPchallenge & you can too. Challenge Guidelines & Sign Up here: http://ctt.ec/go4Ch+


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Why Take the Farmers Market SNAP Challenge?

Food insecurity is a growing concern in the United States. One in seven Americans have struggled to put food on the table at some point during the year (ERS, 2013). Food assistance programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps), help by providing funds to purchase food. However, as the “Supplemental” implies, SNAP is not intended to provide 100% of a person’s intake, although many recipients are using it in that way. The average SNAP recipient in Virginia receives $31.94 to feed themselves for a week (FNS, 2013), making it difficult to eat a balanced and varied diet.

The Farmers Market SNAP Challenge is an exercise in empathy for the Virginia Tech community; to experience, however briefly, a sense of what life is like for millions of low-income Americans facing hunger by pledging to live on the same limited food budget as an average SNAP user. Taking the SNAP Challenge has been an eye-opening experience for many, including dietitians, politicians, religious organizations, non-profits, and hunger advocates.

In a unique twist on the SNAP challenge concept, the Farmers Market SNAP Challenge will highlight the benefit local families receive from the Blacksburg Farmers Market’s SNAP Incentive Program, which matches up to $10 per shopping trip when patrons use their SNAP benefits at the market. This program is valuable for SNAP recipients, as it stretches their food budget further, while also improving their access to fresh, local foods. The program is also a boon for Farmers Market vendors, who tap into a new revenue stream, and the community, where every dollar spent at the market has a multiplier effect in the local economy.

To focus on these benfits, participants in the Farmers Market SNAP Challenge will be asked to spend part of their SNAP Challenge food budget at the Blacksburg Farmers Market, allowing them to experience the power of the SNAP doubling program for themselves. During the challenge, if you spend $10 at the farmers market, you’ll have an additional $10 added to your food budget. During the week of the SNAP Challenge, you can shop at the Blacksburg Farmers Market on Saturday, October 11th (1st day of the Challenge) and Wednesday, October 15th. Starting with the average Virginia SNAP benefit of $32, and adding in the $10 SNAP Incentive Program match for each visit, you’ll have a grand total of $52 to spend on food during the Farmers Market SNAP Challenge ($40 of which should be spent at the Blacksburg Farmers Market).

The math behind the Farmers Market SNAP Challenge budget.

The math behind the Farmers Market SNAP Challenge budget.

Keeping Local Food Affordable

This is an optional lesson used in Virginia to teach our clients how to use SNAP benefits at a farmers market.

Leaders Guide: Keeping local food affordable


FNP at the Farmers Market

To give you a better idea of the many ways that FNP helps people Eat Smart and Move More, I wanted to talk about one of our newer projects, the Food Security Program. Meredith has been working very hard over the last year and a half to increase SNAP recipients’ access to local foods. Partnering with the VA Department of Social Services, she has helped more farmers markets get EBT machines in order to accept SNAP benefits.

Using SNAP at the Farmers Market

Using SNAP at the Farmers Market

Some markets she has worked with match SNAP benefits with extra money, letting families to buy even more local food. For instance, at the Blacksburg Farmers Market, SNAP benefits are matched dollar for dollar, so if you take $5 from your EBT card, they will give you $10 to spend! Each market that has these SNAP matching programs works very hard to fund them through grants and fundraising. We applaud their dedication to ensuring everyone can eat the delicious bounty that is harvested in Virginia!

This program fits very nicely with another Virginia group’s project. The Virginia Food System Council is asking all Virginians to take the $10 a Week Pledge. If everyone in Virginia spent just $10 per week on local food, it would boost our economy by an estimated $1.65 BILLION a year. You can help your local community thrive, while eating fresh and tasty fruits, veggies, meat and eggs produced by your neighbors. What’s not to love? With the matching programs, the benefits of local, seasonal foods and the huge economic impact, the $10 a Week project is a WIN-WIN-WIN for all Virginians, even those who use SNAP.

That’s not all that Meredith does for FNP at Farmers Markets. She is also our head Cooking Coach, giving cooking demos at Farmers Markets. She has plenty of tasty recipes to share that use old favorites in new ways (Green Beans with Toasted Garlic) or simple ways to prepare new fruits or veggies found at the market (Delicata Squash with Walnuts). She and her helpers have been all across Virginia this summer, handing out samples of these recipes for people to try. So far, FNP’s Cooking Coaches have showed over 600 people shopping at their local farmers markets how to prepare low-cost produce in simple, tasty ways their families will love.

Since the harvest season is in full swing, make a plan to visit your local Farmers Market this week. You can find the market closest to you, as well as find out who accepts SNAP, using USDA’s Farmers Market Directory. If you are in Roanoke, stop by these upcoming FNP cooking demos

  • August 1- Downtown Roanoke Farmers Market 12:00 pm – 2:00 pm
  • August 13- West End Farmers Market 3:00 pm – 6:00 pm
  • August 17- Vinton Farmers Market 10:30 am – 2:00 pm

Let us know if you run into one of our Cooking Coaches or what delicious local foods you buy at the market.