header logo
10900 Euclid Avenue  Cleveland, Ohio 44106-7069
P 216-368-1918  •  F 216-368-2610
Home  \  Reports & Publicatio...  \  PRCHN Success Storie...  \  FreshLink: Improving...
FreshLink: Increasing and Improving Use of Farmers’ Markets in Low-Resource Areas
Many people receiving SNAP benefits in Cleveland and East Cleveland live in “food deserts”—neighborhoods that lack a full-service grocery store. Cleveland has a growing network of farmers’ markets that provide an excellent alternative source of fresh fruits and vegetables. However, many of those receiving SNAP benefits do not use farmers’ markets and/or are not aware that all farmers’ markets in the city of Cleveland accept SNAP. The Prevention Research Center for Healthy Neighborhoods (PRCHN) is working with community partners to better understand SNAP recipients’ use of farmers’ markets.

FreshLink is the PRCHN’s core research. FreshLink works with community partners to increase access to healthy, nutritious foods in low-resource neighborhoods in Cleveland and East Cleveland, Ohio. Using a three-pronged approach of an extensive survey of community residents, in-depth interviews, and recruiting community leaders as FreshLink Ambassadors, FreshLink is evaluating and improving how people receiving SNAP benefits use farmers’ markets, Double-Value Produce Perks, and nutrition education programs. 

The study began in summer 2015 with an extensive survey of 320 SNAP recipients across low-resource neighborhoods in Cleveland and East Cleveland who have access to a farmers’ market. The results of the survey form the basis of much of FreshLink’s work over the life of the project. A more in-depth Food Habits Study interviewed 30 community residents who took the initial survey to provide greater understanding of how residents make decisions around purchasing and preparing food. FreshLink is also recruiting community leaders to boost demand for farmers’ markets, Produce Perks, and nutrition education programs by making referrals, sharing information at community events, and leading an outreach event.

The CDC cites farmers’ markets as an environmental and policy-based strategy to improve consumption of fruits and vegetables among Americans by improving access. FreshLink aims to study and improve upon all areas of nutritious food access, including spatial-temporal, service delivery, social, financial, and personal access.

The bulk of the survey data was collected by a small group of community interns, who saw first-hand how even the data collection process had a positive impact on the community. One of these interns, Marilyn Brown, noted that many survey respondents were glad to learn that they lived near a farmer’s market. “They really wanted fresher produce,” she says, “because what they purchase from the grocery store went bad too fast. They knew the farmer’s market stuff stayed fresh longer. Many didn’t know about the Produce Perks program. They were excited to hear about it because it increased their food budget.”