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Farm Fresh Rhode Island’s Farmers Markets and Bonus Bucks Program

The Challenge

For Rhode Islanders who live in poverty and use the SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as Food Stamps) fresh, healthy fruits and vegetables can often be too costly to afford. Since people affected by poverty can be more at risk for obesity and diet-related disease this situation has ripple effects that reach to our healthcare system.

The Approach

Farm Fresh Rhode Island’s Bonus Bucks nutrition incentives program provides a 100% bonus to low-income families who use their SNAP benefits program at farmers markets across the state, making fresh produce more accessible with a one-to-one match.

By The Numbers

Since it started in 2008, Bonus Bucks has significantly impacted the ability of low-income shoppers to take advantage of Rhode Island farmers markets. In 2018:

  • Number of farmers and producers who sold at 9 Farm Fresh RI-operated farmers markets: 195
  • Number of farmers markets in Rhode Island that participated in Bonus Bucks: 31
  • Bonus Bucks transactions at RI farmers markets in 2018: 6,120
  • Bonus Bucks distributed to SNAP shoppers at farmers markets statewide: $125,878
  • Number of shoppers who increased their power to buy fresh produce: 2,801

Ensure Food Security for All Rhode Islanders

This program directly increases the ability of low-income residents of Rhode Island to buy fruits and vegetables from farmers markets.

Program Description

Farm Fresh RI’s Bonus Bucks program has had serious impact on Rhode Island since its inception. The program provides $1 bonus for every $1 spent with SNAP at participating farmers markets. Already this has benefited the state’s low-income population immensely, not only by increasing their spending power but also by providing it in the form of access to healthful food options. Beyond this, farmers are benefited as Bonus Bucks increase the number of people who frequent the states farmers markets to buy local food. The first year of the Bonus Bucks program alone saw an increase SNAP sales by over 600% across Rhode Island farmers markets!

Future Plans

Moving forward, Farm Fresh RI will work to expand Bonus Bucks to reach more outlets in Rhode Island as well as increase the number of low-income individuals taking advantage of the 100% bonus.

This Rhode Island Story was prepared by Nhu Phung.