by Jeff Delp
When we opened the Carver Market one year ago, we hoped to bring quality fruits and vegetables into our community. No other retail store was offering fresh produce in our area. But we weren’t sure how we would help those unaccustomed to having access to healthy foods to take a risk and try something new.
We knew a large percentage of our shoppers would be buying their food with SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) Benefits. For a family shopping with a limited income, it can be a difficult choice to purchase something that may or may not be good. Or that a child may or may not like. The budget for experimentation is not high.
Not surprisingly, in the first eight months of our operation, the average transaction of a customer buying with SNAP included only 7% produce. This number compared to 15% for our cash/credit customers. In other words, customers paying with cash or credit bought twice as much produce as our EBT customers. We wanted to change that dynamic.
Many farmer’s markets near us offer 2 for 1 SNAP on produce. The program was designed to encourage lower income residents to visit farmer’s markets and encourage them to try new produce. While the premise was strong, a variety of reasons contribute to SNAP customers not attending or buying from a farmer’s market. So the question has been asked: How do we get this 2 for 1 program into a traditional retail outlet?
We found a partner in Georgia Food Oasis, who offered to sponsor 2 for 1 SNAP at Carver Market, and we gladly accepted. In February, we began offering 2 or 1 produce on Thursdays. We brought attention to the program by hosting celebrity Chef G. Garvin. He promoted the effort and offered free samples to customers using produce available in the store.
The results have been nothing short of phenomenal. In February and March, the average transaction in our store included 20% produce – regardless of payment method! Not only did this 2 for 1 promotion narrow the gap between SNAP and non-SNAP customers, but it boosted overall produce sales for everyone. A true win-win for everyone involved.
We are so glad to see neighbors buying more fruits and veggies and trying new foods at home. Our hope has been to encourage positive choices in the community by making healthy food available and affordable. We’re grateful to Georgia Food Oasis for helping us reach this dream.