On Wednesday, August 2, 2017, city officials kicked off "Farm Fresh Boston," an annual campaign by the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) and the Mayor's Office of Food Access aimed at raising awareness that affordable, locally-grown produce is available at 24 farmers markets around the City.
Now in its second year, the "Farm Fresh Boston" campaign highlights the Commonwealth's Healthy Incentives Program (HIP) which helps SNAP participants buy more locally-grown produce. HIP allows participants to spend their SNAP dollars on fruits and vegetables at participating farmers market retailers, and helps people earn extra funds on their SNAP/EBT card, which can then be used toward any future SNAP-eligible purchases.
"Improving access to healthy and affordable food is part of our efforts to make neighborhoods healthier places to live," said Mayor Martin J. Walsh. "Boston is fortunate to have an abundance of farmers markets and with HIP, residents are now able to get more value out of their SNAP dollars."
Along with raising awareness, the "Farm Fresh Boston" campaign will provide tools and resources in English and Spanish to help residents locate their local farmers markets and select food once they arrive at the markets. A map tool created for the campaign helps residents locate the farmers markets in their neighborhoods. The campaign also provides resources, like a seasonal produce guide to help Bostonians learn about and choose farm fresh options.
"Making it easier for people to make healthy choices is crucial to achieving health equity in Boston," said BPHC Executive Director Monica Valdes Lupi, JD, MPH. "With 'Farm Fresh Boston,' we hope to make people aware that there is a wide network of healthy and affordable food resources that can protect us from poor health outcomes such as obesity, cardiovascular disease and hypertension."
"We are overwhelmed with the success that HIP is having in the City of Boston. Since April when the Health Incentive Program rolled out in the city, we have been seeing more SNAP recipients shopping at the farmers markets, and I have also heard from many farmers that their sales have been increasing significantly," said Catalina Lopez-Ospina, director of the Mayor's Office of Food Access. "We want to guarantee that all Bostonians have access to fresh, healthy, locally grown fruits and vegetables and HIP is helping us to move the needle in that direction."
Boston residents will see the campaign highlighted throughout the summer months in billboards, subway cars, and bus interiors and exteriors. Wayfinding signs will also direct pedestrians to nearby markets, helping to emphasize the campaign's message that farm-fresh fruits and vegetables are available right around the corner from wherever you are in Boston.
"The Health Incentive Program brings healthier options at an affordable price to residents of the city of Boston, said State Representative Kevin G. Honan. "Mayor Walsh and his Office of Food Access have done an extraordinary job in tandem with the Boston Public Health Commission by providing our community with nutritious alternatives."
"Farm Fresh Boston not only brings local farmers and their products to our neighborhoods, but also provides fresh, healthy options for some of our most vulnerable citizens," said Councilor Mark Ciommo. "I want to thank the Boston Public Health Commission, the Mayor's Office of Food Access, and everyone involved in the Oak Square Farmers Market for this amazing event."
"HIP allows me to stretch my budget by saving my SNAP benefits and using them later," said Maren Tober of South Boston. "With HIP I can get healthy food for free, and the cool thing is that it supports local farmers, myself, and the city. It is a win-win for everyone."
Farmers market shoppers are encouraged to share their photos on social media using the hashtag #farmfreshBOS. BPHC will collect social media photo submissions and host a weekly sweepstakes drawing for farmers market-related prizes.