This month, over 20 farmers and farmers’ markets across the state are hosting online fundraisers to support the Maine Harvest Bucks nutrition incentive program. Maine Harvest Bucks provides low-income shoppers with bonus bucks at farmers’ markets to buy fresh fruits and vegetables from local farms.
The fundraising initiative comes at a time when Maine Harvest Bucks has seen 70% growth in spending on fruits and vegetables since the pandemic started. The Maine Federation of Farmers’ Markets administers Maine Harvest Bucks at 36 farmers’ markets and is supporting farmers in the fundraising initiative. The fundraiser is being hosted on the Facebook pages and e-newsletters of farmers’ markets and farmers across the state who help organize the program.
According to the Maine Federation of Farmers’ Markets, over $500,000 in local food was purchased by people using SNAP and Maine Harvest Bucks in 2021. Spending with Maine Harvest Bucks increased over 70% during the pandemic, leading to MFFM having to make program changes mid-season to keep spending within their program budget.
Maine Harvest Bucks is funded primarily by a single federal grant. The program’s organizers are working to diversify funding sources to help keep Maine Harvest Bucks more sustainable in the long-term. The money raised during the fundraisers will go towards the Maine Harvest Bucks fund – to be used to pay for the fruit and vegetable purchases at farmers’ markets.
“Maine Harvest Bucks helps keep fresh, healthy, and local food on the plates of Mainers experiencing poverty” said Jimmy DeBiasi, who manages the program for the Maine Federation of Farmers’ Markets, in a news release. “The program allows for people of limited resources to enjoy the wonderful community aspect of farmers’ markets, and it gives them the dignity to spend their limited food dollars supporting local farms while getting more for their dollar.”
According to recent shopper surveys, Maine Harvest Bucks participants report feeling healthier, learning how to cook new foods, and relying less on food pantries thanks to the program. Nearly 12% of Mainers are considered food insecure, and over 160,000 participate in SNAP.
Anyone can support the Maine Harvest Bucks program by going to the Maine Federation of Farmers’ Markets website to donate. Or, keep an eye out for local farms and farmers’ markets across Maine who are hosting fundraisers on their Facebook and e-newsletter accounts.
Learn more about Maine Harvest Bucks at mainefarmersmarkets.org/maineharvestbucks.