Somerville Farmers' Market Makes Healthy Eating Affordable for All

Healthy Eating by Design

Field of Work: Changing local food and nutrition policies and environments for children.

Synopsis of the Work: The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) selected 12 community partnerships participating in its national program Active Living by Design to implement strategies to provide affordable, healthy and appealing food options to children and families by changing local food and nutrition policies and environments. Seven school-based partnerships and five community-based partnerships participated in Health Eating by Design. The Somerville, Mass. partnership recognized that in order to accomplish its goals, all of its strategies needed to be culturally, linguistically and economically appropriate for community residents.

Story Told: As a result, promotional materials for the farmers' market, including directional signs, were produced in four languages: Haitian-Creole, Portuguese, Spanish and English. Volunteer health advisors conducted nutrition and food preparation educational sessions at the market in various languages and offered family and kid-friendly activities.

Invitations and an incentive program that contributed an additional $1 to $2 for every $5 in benefits spent at the market encouraged WIC and food stamp program beneficiaries to attend as well. The Healthy Eating by Design partnership also supported vendors by providing clear instructions on how to accept and redeem the food stamp tokens.

By addressing cultural and economic barriers, the farmers' market at Union Square provided an attractive community gathering place for families of all income levels. In the second season of its operations, the farmers' market attracted more than twice as many families with children than in the previous season. Total attendance, the percentage of foreign-born and low-income customers and the redemption rate of WIC Special Supplemental Nutrition Program vouchers also increased.