Virginia Fresh Match (VFM) is a network of farmers markets and food stores across Virginia that offer nutrition incentives. VFM nutrition incentives double the value of federal nutrition benefits like SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, food stamps) spent at participating farmers markets and food stores. With Virginia Fresh Match, low-income consumers can afford additional healthy food, local farmers gain new customers and make more money, and more food dollars stay in the local economy.
Farmers markets are on the rise in Virginia, with more than 250 locations selling everything from peas to peaches. Half already accept SNAP. But while Virginians spend over a billion dollars a year in SNAP, only two tenths of one percent ($200,327 in 2019) goes to farmers markets. When more SNAP money is spent on local produce, everyone benefits.
Since 2009, markets across Virginia have piloted incentive programs many funded through a national non-profit partner Wholesome Wave. In 2015, Wholesome Wave worked closely with markets and Virginia Farmers Market Association to form a statewide network, Virginia Fresh Match, to offer statewide incentive funding. In 2018, LEAP and Virginia Community Food Connections partnered under VFM and received a USDA FINI (Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive) grant to provide SNAP incentive funding through 2021, as well as to expand the network to new markets and retail grocery stores.