Last fall, Stacy Dean, USDA’s Deputy Under Secretary for Food Nutrition and Consumer Services, visited the Fondy Farmers Market, Milwaukee's 105-year-old, largest, and first farmers market in Wisconsin to accept SNAP!
The market is run by Fondy, a nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing access to healthy, local food and economic opportunity across the greater Milwaukee area and is an impressive model in so many ways. While at the market, Dean met with the market manager, FoodWIse, the Milwaukee Farmers Market Coalition, other community partners, and the farmers who play a critical role in increasing access to fresh, local produce.
Every Fondy project is community-driven and leverages existing networks to support local producers and entrepreneurs to meet the needs of the community. Several years ago, Fondy saw farmers, primarily HMoob farmers, dropping out of farming. The reason? Many didn’t have access to quality land or stable long-term leases. With several sources of USDA funding, including the Community Food Projects Competitive Grants Program (CFPCGP) and Environmental Quality Incentive Program, the organization launched the Fondy Farm Project.
Through the project, 40 acres of long-term, high-quality leased land became available to the historically underserved farmers who grow food for Milwaukee area residents. Long-term land access allowed farmers, many of whom identify as HMoob, to invest in their farms and serve diverse customers by growing culturally relevant crops without a fear of losing their land. The CFPCGP also provided capacity-building equipment, allowing producers to grow and process more food.
It was inspiring to learn that the market’s farmers are seeing an increase in SNAP purchases, due in part to a nutrition incentive program - Milwaukee Market Match. The match program is run by Fondy with support from FoodWIse, a SNAP Ed partner, which also delivers nutrition education at the market. FoodWIse supports the Milwaukee Farmers Market Coalition, which works towards policy, systemic, and environmental changes to establish and maintain inclusive SNAP/EBT programs at multiple markets across Milwaukee. This important program not only stretches the purchasing power of SNAP recipients, but increases their intake of fruits and vegetables. Most importantly, by spending at the market, money is kept in the community and with local farmers. It’s a WIN-WIN for the farmers and the community!
Milwaukee County allocated $1.1 million of American Rescue Plan Act funds to sustain the match program at ten markets across the county in 2022. That’s a whole lot of fruits and veggies!
At the end of her visit, Deputy Under Secretary Stacy Dean added that meeting and speaking with market and community members, as well as SNAP participants, is one of the most rewarding parts of her job and reminds her how much the work at USDA matters — to farmers and to community members in Milwaukee and across the country.