EBT, Market Bucks Helping More Low-income Minnesotans Eat Better, Shop Farmers Markets
Blue Cross, community partners help expand program to more markets in 2012
EAGAN, Minn., March 14, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — March is National Nutrition Month, and thanks to a collaborative effort by several community organizations, rural and urban farmers markets and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota (Blue Cross), affordable, healthy food will be even easier to buy for more Minnesotans who receive food support as part of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). This year, 24 farmers market locations around Minnesota will accept Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards to purchase healthier foods at these markets – that’s up six locations from last year. Also returning are “Market Bucks” which are coupons that match the first $5 in EBT card purchases with an additional $5 in Market Bucks each market day.
As food support in Minnesota moved from paper stamps to electronic form in 1998, installation of terminals to accept EBT at farmers markets has slowly grown. Blue Cross has worked closely with local governments such as the City of Minneapolis and Saint Paul – Ramsey County, and with the Minnesota Farmers’ Market Association (MFMA) to expand the capacity of markets to accept EBT. These community organizations – with additional funding from the Blue Cross, Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW) and Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP) – not only increased the number of markets accepting EBT from only one in 2006 to 24 this year, but they launched Market Bucks in 2010 to increase the number of customers using their EBT cards to buy fruits, vegetables and other healthy food at participating farmers markets. In addition to expanding customers’ purchasing power and increasing healthy eating, the program benefits local farmers and the local economy.
For the 2012 growing season, the following 24 market locations will be accepting EBT and offering Market Bucks:
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Positive preliminary results from 2011 led to the expansion of the Market Bucks Program in 2012. Additionally, Blue Cross will continue working with local government agencies and community organizations to pursue administrative and technology changes to make EBT easier for farmers markets to adopt statewide. Highlights from the 2011 season include:
- Approximately $67,000 in total EBT sales occurred at the 16 participating farmers market locations; nearly $18,000 of that sales total were from new EBT markets; among three markets that accepted EBT in both 2010 and 2011 total EBT sales increased 137 percent.
- More than 2,300 individual customers used EBT at the 16 participating farmers market locations — a 215 percent increase over the number using EBT at the three participating market locations in 2010.
- More than $23,000 in Market Bucks were distributed — a 224 percent increase over the $7,127 in Market Bucks distributed in 2010.
- Ninety-seven percent of all SNAP customers surveyed reported they would shop at the farmers market in the future even if the Market Bucks incentive was no longer available. Of those who had used EBT at least twice at participating farmers markets in 2011:
- 65 percent thought the prices for fruits and vegetables were better at the markets than at grocery stores
- 86 percent thought the quality of fruits and vegetables was better at the markets than at grocery stores
- 95 percent said they shop at the farmers market more often because they can use EBT there
- 88 percent said they eat more fruits and vegetables because they can use EBT at the markets
“These results are really encouraging and we’re glad to continue working with so many great community organizations to bring this service to even more markets this year,” says Dr. Marc Manley, chief prevention officer for Blue Cross. “Blue Cross works for the health of all Minnesotans, and through this program we can improve access and affordability for low-income residents so they, too, can enjoy nutritious foods and maintain good health.”
Access is especially important for EBT recipients, as their neighborhoods often lack full-service grocery stores or other sources of fresh produce. According to a 2010 Blue Cross study, only 15 percent of Minnesota adults eat the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables daily. With 63 percent of adult Minnesotans overweight or obese and childhood obesity rates triple what they were three decades ago, creative programs that encourage healthy eating can have big pay offs by avoiding serious diseases and conditions that drive up health care costs.
“Having farmers markets accept EBT means greater access to fruits and vegetables for those families and communities suffering some of the largest health disparities,” says Pat Adams, Director of the Office of Statewide Health Improvement Initiatives at the Minnesota Department of Health. She adds, “It is just these kinds of sustainable strategies we need so that people have the choice to eat better and their kids grow up healthier.”
“Our member markets, many which are located in rural Minnesota, installed EBT terminals and offered Market Bucks for the first time last year, and they really enjoyed being able to provide access to locally-produced healthy foods to those on food support in our communities,” says Deonna Bouska, operations manager for MFMA. “Our local farmers also commented that it benefited their bottom lines, so it was a win-win for everyone. We’re looking forward to another great season with the addition of a few more markets accepting EBT and Market Bucks.
Farmers Markets will welcome EBT shoppers to the market in late April or May (varies by market). For more information on start dates visit the websites for each farmers market. To view an executive summary of the preliminary 2011 Market Bucks results visit www.bluecrossmn.com/preventionminnesota. A full 2011 Market Bucks Evaluation Report will be available in May 2012.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, with headquarters in the St. Paul suburb of Eagan, was chartered in 1933 as Minnesota’s first health plan and continues to carry out its charter mission today: to promote a wider, more economical and timely availability of health services for the people of Minnesota. A nonprofit, taxable organization, Blue Cross is the largest health plan based in Minnesota, covering 2.7 million members in Minnesota and nationally through its health plans or plans administered by its affiliated companies. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, headquartered in Chicago. Go to bluecrossmn.com to learn more about Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota. Each Blue Cross and Blue Shield plan is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.
The City of Minneapolis Department of Health and Family Support works to promote health equity in Minneapolis and meet the unique needs of our urban population by providing leadership and fostering partnerships. Funding for the EBT and Market Bucks program is provided to the Minneapolis Department of Health and Family Support through the Minnesota Department of Health and its Statewide Health Improvement Program and the Communities Putting Prevention to Work grants initiative, funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The City of Minneapolis supports programs that make healthy choices easy and economical for all residents and those that make locally grown food available and chosen. These strategies reach toward the City’s goals of an eco-focused city and livable communities, healthy lives.
Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW) is a locally driven initiative supporting 50 communities to tackle obesity and tobacco use–two leading preventable causes of death and disability in the United States. More than 50 million people–or one in six Americans–live in a city, town, county, or tribal community that benefits from this initiative.
Hennepin County is home for about a quarter of Minnesota’s population. The county provides many services, from running one of the nation’s top library systems, to providing human services to nearly one in four of the county’s residents.
The Minnesota Farmers’ Market Association is a non-profit organization offering services and programs to support and promote
Minnesota’s farmers markets. Please visit our website at www.mfma.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Saint Paul – Ramsey County Public Health provides a diverse range of services as it carries out its mission to improve, protect and promote public health. As a government agency that serves the City of Saint Paul and the other cities within the county, Saint Paul – Ramsey County Public Health is one of the largest local public health departments in the State of Minnesota. Go to www.co.ramsey.mn.us/ph to learn more about Saint Paul – Ramsey County Public Health.
The Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP), an integral part of Minnesota’s nation- leading 2008 health reform law, strives to help Minnesotans lead longer, healthier lives by preventing the chronic disease risk factors of tobacco use and exposure, poor nutrition and physical inactivity. For more information, visit http://www.health.state.mn.us/healthreform/ship.
SOURCE Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota