An Indiana University study has found lower income Hoosiers largely do not have access to farmers markets.
Assistant professor in the IU School of Public Health James Farmer led a study that surveyed farmers markets around Indiana. He and his colleague found many of them are located near higher income communities, making them largely inaccessible to lower income consumers.
“The northwestern part of the state, one farmer’s market does exist in and near Gary is at Miller Beach, which is also an area, which is noted for its privilege,” Farmer says. “But there are far fewer farmer’s markets located in areas where food inaccessibility or food insecurity is more prevalent.”
Price can also be an issue, Farmer says. The study found of those who participated in CSAs or community supported agriculture programs, 62 percent had incomes of more than $75,000. Only 17 percent had incomes of less than $45,000.
While food bought at farmers markets in season can be comparable to grocery store prices, the study found farmers markets often do not have subsidized programs for low-income residents.
But Bloomington farmer’s market coordinator Marcia Veldman says Bloomington has implemented several programs aimed at those on tighter budgets.
“We were the first in the state of Indiana to start accepting food stamp benefit at the market and that has been really well received, and allows for people to buy that product at the market without having to use money they may otherwise use for rent,” Veldman says.
Both Farmer and Veldman advocate for more programs like these. Farmer says if farmers markets want to be truly sustainable, they need to rethink their strategies and reach out to all consumers, not just those with higher incomes.