Over the past year, Countryside Food and Farms reports it has seen a significant increase in the impact of its food access programs, helping families in Summit County find healthier food choices.
Countryside, a nonprofit partner of Cuyahoga Valley National Park, operates a number of farmers’ markets among other responsibilities, and accepts multiple food assistance programs at all of its markets, including SNAP, WIC, VANTAGE Senior vouchers and Produce Perks.
Within Summit County, the most recent numbers show a 47-percent increase in the number of SNAP and Produce Perks transactions since this time last year, a 39-percent increase in the SNAP dollars spent and a 70-percent increase in Produce Perks dollars spent.
Countryside has four farmers’ markets and works with eight other markets across four counties.
SNAP is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program that provides food assistance benefits for qualifying households and is accepted at authorized farmers’ markets across Ohio. Produce Perks is a program that provides SNAP users with additional buying power through a matching incentive, specifically for fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables. Countryside is one of five statewide spokes for Produce Perks – organizations authorized to implement the program and to train and assist other farmers’ markets to offer these programs.
In addition to offering SNAP and Produce Perks, Countryside also works with Summit County WIC and Vantage Aging to accept both WIC and Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program Vouchers.
Based on the response from WIC clients for farmers’ market vouchers, which demonstrates both the need and desire for fresh, seasonal produce, Countryside introduced a $5 incentive to WIC clients to further support this access. The program has been so successful that funds have been expended for 2019, and Countryside plans for it to return in 2020. “Ensuring all people have access to healthy, local food is one of Countryside’s guiding principles. These numbers show us that there is strong and growing customer demand for these services in the communities that we serve. It’s a good feeling.” says Tracy Emrick, Countryside CEO.
For info, visit www.cvcountryside.org.