Last May, the Bainum Foundation Farm announced plans to partner with Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food & Agriculture to further invest in wrap-around supports for vulnerable children and families and dramatically increase the availability of fresh produce and other healthy food items in the District of Columbia’s Wards 7 and 8.
The first year of our partnership with Arcadia focused on setting up operations at our farm in preparation for growing next year, and supporting their Mobile Market. This included sponsoring weekly stops of Arcadia’s Mobile Market in Wards 7 and 8 as well as investing in the Farmer’s Register, a point-of-sale system that helps Arcadia track purchases by food type and payment type.
The Mobile Market is a rolling farm stand stocked with local, sustainably grown foods including fruits, vegetables, eggs, meat, cheese and dairy. Designed to deliver these healthy food items at affordable prices, the Market makes regular stops in low-income neighborhoods and accepts and doubles the value of public assistance benefits (SNAP, WIC, etc.) — providing a 50% discount for low-income customers. This significant discount, paired with the opportunity to make these purchases, promotes choice and agency in the health of customers and their families.
Data collected through the Farmer’s Register provided insights that help us understand what customers in Wards 7 and 8 are looking for in terms of fresh produce. For example, the top three products sold at the market — apples, peaches and kale — will inform our future growing plans at the Farm. The tool also enables us to see which locations are most convenient to our customers, as well as what forms of payment customers use to purchase fruits and vegetables. This data will influence the market’s future locations to make healthy food as accessible and convenient as possible to Ward 7 and 8 residents.
Other interesting facts revealed by the data:
- Mobile Market revenue has risen steadily each year. Since its first year of operation in 2012, the Mobile Market’s annual revenues have increased by more than 400%.
- The markets are effectively reaching SNAP customers — Arcadia is responsible for less than 2% of all farmers’ market business in the District, but redeems 30% of all SNAP benefits spent at D.C. farmers’ markets.
- Demand for produce at the markets is increasing — In 2015, produce made up 70% of SNAP transactions at the Mobile Market, and in 2016, the total was 75%.
- Arcadia’s Mobile Market customers, most of whom are low-income, are improving the local food system. Customers have pumped nearly $468,000 in new revenue into the local rural economy since 2012.
“We are demonstrating every day that if you make wholesome food affordable and convenient, low-income people will purchase it and consume it in ever-increasing amounts,” says Pamela Hess, Executive Director for Arcadia. “That is fuel for the rural economy, and it is great for public health.”
Learn more about food insecurity in the District with this recent article from the Washington City Paper (“In Wards 7 and 8, Feeding the Food Insecure is a Team Effort”) and this article from the Washington Post (“Foundation acquires farm to provide fresh produce to D.C.’s poorest areas”). Also, check out the latest updates on the Bainum Foundation Farm.