New program Provides Fresh Fruits and Vegetables for low-income Wayne County shoppers
For families who rely on SNAP (Food Stamps), fresh produce is often off the table – literally. But in Wayne County, that’s about to change. A new program is bringing “produce-purchasing power” to the families who need it most.
Now families shopping with SNAP at the three Wayne county locations of Buehler’s Fresh Foods will receive up to $10 extra – per visit – to spend on fruits and vegetables. It’s all part of a partnership with the national non-profit Wholesome Wave, funded by the Ohio Department of Health and on track to reach tens of thousands of Ohioans this year.
We all know we should eat fruits and vegetables daily, but families struggling with poverty often simply cannot afford them. As a result, the same people forced to skip meals are also likely to suffer from obesity and diabetes—because the foods they can afford lead to high rates of diet-related disease. But when people can afford fresh produce, they buy it. That’s where this program comes in.
Each time SNAP customers spend at least $5 on fresh produce at Buehler’s, they will receive a $5 voucher for more fresh fruits and vegetables. There’s no enrollment or paperwork to fill out; shoppers receive the benefit automatically. Three Buehler’s Fresh Foods locations (two stores in Wooster and one in Orville) will distribute produce vouchers this summer.
National non-profit Wholesome Wave, which helped create the program, works across the country to equip families in poverty with produce-purchasing power and has been active in Ohio for years, supporting local partner Produce Perks Midwest and the Ohio Nutrition Incentive Network. Wholesome Wave has long helped Ohio SNAP shoppers buy more produce at farmers markets in Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati. Today SNAP shoppers can find Produce Perks at nearly 100 farmers markets across Ohio.
Now the concept has hit the supermarket check-out lane. The Ohio Grocers Association has played a key role, while Buehler’s Fresh Foods, an employee-owned company with 13 stores serving Northern Ohio will be making the idea a reality for their shoppers.
“Poverty should never be an obstacle to something as essential as fruits and vegetables,” said Sarah Pandoursky, Partnership Manager at Wholesome Wave. “Our programs have found, year after year and state after state, that when people can afford produce, they buy it. Diets change and health outcomes follow. Local businesses and area farmers benefit too. It’s good for everyone.”
“The Ohio Department of Health’s Creating Healthy Communities Program is committed to improving healthy food access in under-resourced communities,” said Ann Weidenbenner, MS, RDN, LD, Creating Healthy Communities Program Manager, Ohio Department of Health. “The expansion of the Produce Perks program to three Buehler’s retail locations in Wayne County improves access to fresh fruits and vegetables for residents and helps families on SNAP stretch their food dollars.”
“Produce Perks is thrilled to have Buehler’s Fresh Foods join our team. We recognize their leadership amongst Ohio grocery-retailers and appreciate their commitment to providing affordable access to healthy foods. We’re excited to be working with a retail partner that shares our values toward building equitable communities and resilient food systems. – Tevis Foreman, Executive Director, Produce Perks Midwest.
PROJECT PARTNERS & ROLES:
In 2017, the Ohio Department of Health made a pioneering investment of $800,000 in the statewide growth of Produce Perks. ODH continues to be a key partner and active participant in the efforts to expand the program to new communities across Ohio.
Wholesome Wave, a nationally-recognized leader in the field of nutrition incentive programs, manages the contract with the Ohio Department of Health. Wholesome Wave also provides technical expertise on the expansion of Produce Perks into grocery stores, complete with a marketing campaign designed to spread the word to SNAP consumers in surrounding communities.
Produce Perks Midwest, a Cincinnati-based nonprofit, serves as the backbone organization of the Ohio Nutrition Incentive Network, a multi-sector collaboration of stakeholders working to increase affordable access to healthy food for Ohio’s under-resourced communities, while strengthening local farms and economies. Find out more at www.ProducePerks.org.
The Ohio Grocers Association serves as a key partner in program development and growth, supporting store recruitment, Produce Perks promotion, and sustainability.
The Prevention Research Center for Healthy Neighborhoods at Case Western Reserve University manages project evaluation.
About Buehler’s Fresh Foods: Buehler’s Fresh Foods, an employee-owned company, operates thirteen Buehler’s Fresh Foods Supermarkets located in Wooster, Orrville, Wadsworth, Medina, Ashland, New Philadelphia, Dover, Jackson Township (Canton), Coshocton, and Portage Lakes (Green), and Massillon, Ohio. For more information visit www.buehlers.com.