Statewide networks increase impact

News Article 7: Statewide networks increase impact


Statewide networks increase impact

August 26, 2016
Gabrielle Langholtz

We’ve established SNAP-doubling programs at many markets in many states, under many names and systems. And while that individual growth is great, organized growth can be an even more powerful force for change.

It quickly became clear that success in the Farm Bill would only mean success in the field if individual organizations could work together as effective networks. Independent stand-alone programs with limited resources shoulder their own marketing and administrative burdens, and risk duplicating efforts or reinventing wheels. Unifying these programs harnesses the power in economies of scale and fosters operating efficiencies, while offering consistent marketing to reach SNAP consumers statewide. We call it working smarter.

This realization sparked energy to expand our work by helping build effective networks. Up in Maine, for example, we saw duplication in programming and competition among community-based nonprofits. We knew that helping them join forces would make these groups more competitive for federal funds—and more impactful overall. Local donors funded us to assess the potential for statewide impact, and then we helped the organizations architect their programs into a statewide network.

It worked. Four years ago, Maine was home to eight different nutrition incentive programs; today we are proud to have helped unify them under one mighty statewide umbrella. The Maine Local Foods Access Network was born in 2013, and today it coordinates incentive programs at farmers markets, mobile markets, CSAs, food hubs, farm stands, and even brick-and-mortar retail stores.

Joining forces can be challenging, but the results are worth the work. Maine SNAP sales have tripled since 2011. And the Maine Network has seen enormous growth in 2016, adding 23 new sites for a total of 64. This success led to an invitation by New Hampshire and Virginia donors to replicate the success in their states.

But success isn’t just about numbers. Farmers and shoppers are reaping the benefits from the unified network and its increased reach. Terry Moffit, a farmer and former market manager at Calais Farmers’ Market, is one of many who have seen the program’s impact firsthand.

“I had a patron approach me rather shyly about whether or not it was true she could literally double her purchases,” she says. “I said a resounding, ‘Yes!’ She almost cried.”