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General Information

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One emerging model for connecting food pantry clients with local sources of food is to set up a market or farm stand at a food pantry during the hours of distribution. This model increases the accessibility of fresh, local produce to food pantry clients, although it also may require outside funding to subsidize prices for clients. Hosting a market at a food pantry and providing cooking demonstrations during pickup hours can increase the visibility and reach of the program, while also adding a nutrition education component that could benefit any food pantry client.

Success Story

A program in Madison County in western North Carolina addressed the issues of access to and availability of fresh produce for food pantry clients by hosting a tailgate market at a local food pantry. The target population of this program were seniors, some raising grandchildren. This model was grant-funded and aimed to increase the variety and volume of produce that food pantry clients could access.

In Madison County’s Food Pantry Tailgate model, a local farmer set up a produce stand once a week at the food pantry and sold produce via tokens that qualifying seniors could use to purchase produce. The value of the tokens doubled if the seniors were raising grandchildren. This initiative improved the variety of produce available at the pantry to include greens, scallions, rhubarb, and other nutritious fruits and vegetables. Grant funds were also used to procure fruits from about a five-county area to include in the market. In addition, Extension agents hosted cooking demonstrations alongside the tailgate market and provided recipes to educate consumers about how to prepare unfamiliar foods.

This program was coordinated between Cooperative Extension, the participating food pantry, and a local farmer. While the tokens for qualified shoppers were grant funded and free for those seniors, the produce was available for other clients to purchase as well. However, this element of the program proved to be challenging, as the cost of local, organic food was more than most pantry clients were able to pay.

How Cooperative Extension Can Be Involved

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  • Grant Writing. Extension can help pursue external funding to support initiatives, such as hosting a local farmer at a food pantry pickup site.
  • Coordination with Farmers. Extension agents can help to locate and coordinate local farmers interested in this approach.
  • Cooking Demonstrations and Recipes. Family and Consumer Science agents and Extension Master Food Volunteers can provide cooking demonstrations, taste tests, and recipes to food pantry clients.

Additional Resources

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Farmers who are interested in accepting SNAP / EBT to increase their sales at a food pantry market can consult these multiple resources:

Extension local food portal

A Guide to SNAP / EBT at Farmers’ Markets in North Carolina

USDA application information for farmers’ markets and direct marketing farmers


Assistant Professor and Local Foods Extension Specialist
Agricultural and Human Sciences
Master's Degree Student, Physician Assistant Studies
East Carolina University

Find more information at the following NC State Extension websites:

Publication date: Nov. 8, 2017

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