How FAM Connects Families with Essential Resources at Farmers Markets

Famers Market with woman in green jacket shopping

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In many communities, accessing fresh, nutritious food directly from local farmers and small businesses can be a challenge, especially for lower-income families. Food Assistance Match, Inc. (FAM), a dedicated 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, is changing that dynamic in southwestern Pennsylvania. By leveraging a unique, community-focused approach, FAM is making locally-grown produce and goods accessible to those who need them most, while also supporting the local economy and food ecosystem.

What is Food Assistance Match (FAM)?

Food Assistance Match (FAM) operates with a clear and powerful objective: to increase access to fresh, nutritious food from local farmers and small businesses for individuals and families who are most in need. This is done through a novel, dignity-first approach that addresses food insecurity challenges while supporting the enterprises and communities that form the backbone of the region.

Why is FAM Important?

Farmers markets are a fantastic source of fresh, locally-grown food, but not everyone can afford the often higher prices compared to conventional grocery stores. FAM helps bridge this financial gap in a manner that fosters community connections among an economically diverse population. By doing so, FAM not only helps individuals and families access essential nutrients but also strengthens the regional economy and supports a sustainable local food ecosystem.

FAM’s Guiding Principles

FAM is built on several core principles that ensure its operations remain focused, effective, and inclusive:

  • Creating an Environment of Dignity for All: FAM ensures that every interaction is conducted with respect and dignity, making patrons feel valued and supported.
  • Ensuring the Program is Easy to Use: Accessibility and simplicity are at the heart of FAM’s approach, making sure that families can easily access the benefits without cumbersome processes.
  • Building Unquestioned Trust: By maintaining transparency and reliability with markets, vendors, patrons, funders, and the community, FAM fosters a strong network of trust and cooperation.

How FAM Works: A Step-by-Step Guide

FAM has designed a straightforward and effective process to connect families with the resources they need at farmer’s markets. In 2024, FAM is active in three farmers markets in the Pittsburgh region—Bellevue Farmers MarketBethel Park Farmers Market, and Cranberry Farmers Market:  Here’s how it works:

  1. Patron Selection: FAM patrons visit the farmers market and choose their items from eligible vendors. This process allows them to pick the fresh, local produce and goods that meet their needs and preferences.
  2. Identification and Receipt: After selecting their items, patrons identify themselves as a FAM participant to receive a receipt for their items. This receipt outlines what they’ve chosen and the total cost.
  3. Transaction Processing: Instead of paying each vendor individually, FAM patrons go to a central location at the market where all their transactions are processed. Here, the matching funds from FAM are applied, multiplying the buying power of their food assistance benefits. This means patrons can take home up to three times more locally-sourced food and goods.
  4. Volunteer Assistance: Volunteers at the market retrieve the purchased goods from the vendors and bring them to the FAM patron. This step ensures a smooth and efficient process for families, particularly those with young children or accessibility needs.
  5. Vendor Reimbursement: Finally, vendors are reimbursed for the full amount of the goods purchased, without any loss due to the matching process. This system supports local farmers and businesses, ensuring they receive full compensation for their products.

The Impact of FAM

The benefits of FAM are wide-reaching:

  • Healthier Families: By multiplying the purchasing power of food assistance programs like SNAP, FoodBucks, and others, FAM ensures that families can afford more nutritious, fresh food, leading to better health outcomes.
  • Stronger Local Economy: FAM supports local farmers and small businesses by driving more sales at farmers markets, which helps keep money within the local community and supports regional economic stability.
  • Sustainable Food Ecosystem: By encouraging purchases from local vendors, FAM promotes a more resilient local food network, reducing the carbon footprint associated with long-distance food transportation and supporting sustainable farming practices.

Conclusion

FAM is more than just a program; it’s a movement towards a more equitable, healthy, and sustainable future. By connecting families with the essential resources they need to access fresh, local food, FAM is helping to build stronger, healthier communities and supporting the local economy. Join us in this important mission, and discover how you can contribute to making a difference in southwestern Pennsylvania and beyond.

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