We now have more evidence of the effectiveness of healthy food subsidies, thanks to a pilot program in Philadelphia. Philly Food Bucks offers food stamps recipients a 40 percent subsidy at farmers markets. In other words, shoppers get a $2 subsidy for every $5 they spend in food stamps at participating farmers markets. In season, farmers markets can be a better deal than supermarkets for produce; I can also report from experience that Philly has many fairly priced farmers markets.
The Food Bucks program is run by the Food Trust, one of the forces behind Philly's Fresh Food Financing initiative, which funds supermarkets in so-called "food deserts." It's a program that has been embraced and taken national by the Obama administration as the Healthy Food Financing initiative.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reports on the promising results from the Philly Food Bucks program:
To fight obesity, the department embarked on a series of nutrition, education, and exercise initiatives with a total cost of $1.5 million received in federal dollars over two years.
Philly Food Bucks, which has cost $160,000 over two years, has shown the most immediate, measurable results.
"These numbers confirm our belief that when fresh fruits and vegetables are available, visible, and affordable, people will eat healthier," Solomon said.
... In 2009, before the food bucks were issued, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly called food stamps) sales at Food Trust farmers' markets totaled $11,500. In 2010, that figured more than doubled, to $29,140. And for the 2011 season, which will end after Thanksgiving, sales are poised to far surpass the 2010 numbers.
"Sales just skyrocketed in June and July 2011. We're on target to sell much more than last year," said Jon Glyn of the Food Trust, "and that doesn't count some of the busiest months of the farm market season -- August, September, October, and November."