Impacting the Community with the Omaha Farmers Market

 

It was a strange, but oddly fulfilling experience walking through the doors of a new University, because while I was still there to learn, I was there to do more than just better myself; I came to make a difference in my local community. Last Tuesday my Internship with the Omaha Farmers Market began with a meeting between two University of Nebraska-Omaha Professors and the President of the coordinating organization for the Farmers Markets, VGA (Vic Gutman & Assoc.). At this meeting the professors laid out a plan for the economic impact study I will be doing in the coming months, where I will be analyzing the impact the farmers market has on the local community. The immediate impression I was given was that it will involve a lot of data collecting through surveys and other means of communication. Beyond that we discussed the models that will be used to analyze the impact the farmers market has on the local community. It was an interesting experience discussing the various aspects of the market that I will be analyzing; while I have studied and researched many of these topics before, I have never actually had the opportunity to put them into practice. I am rather excited to receive a first-hand experience of market analysis, and while my responsibilities involve more data collection and entry than anything else, everyone needs to start somewhere.

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Omaha Farmers Market – Old Market (Source: OFM Facebook Page)
Omaha Farmers Market- Aksarben Village
Omaha Farmers Market- Aksarben Village (Source: OFM Facebook Page)

Another aspect of my internship that I am eager to begin is the improvement of SNAP at the Omaha Farmers Markets. SNAP, or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, is available at the Omaha Farmers Markets and the produce vendors on-site are required to participate in the program. My first meeting on improving SNAP at the Farmers Market is scheduled for tomorrow morning; I will be meeting with the President of VGA and the Project Coordinator for the markets to discuss what plans and ideas we have to improve the program.

Market Customers are able to use their SNAP benefits through of use Market Tokens.
Market customers are able to use their SNAP benefits through the use of tokens. (Source: Personal Photo)

I have spent a lot time so far doing research about surveys, head-counting, SNAP, impact studies, etc. and so far the tool that has proved invaluable to me is the resource library on the Farmers Market Coalition Website. This database of resources covers every topic that I have needed to learn about thus far such as: SNAP, effective head-counting methods, survey examples, etc., and while it has been my only reference site, it has provided the most useful information I have encountered. One study involving SBIP (SNAP-based Incentive Programs) utilizes research data from over a hundred different markets from across the country, analyzes the various aspects of SNAP at farmers markets and how it can be improved. This document will be rather helpful at my meeting tomorrow. 

As far as my ‘site’ goes, there is not one place that I spend a majority of my time for this internship. So far it has involved different meetings around Omaha, some research on my own time and data entry at VGA headquarters. Even though I am suppose to get an office this week, I still do not plan on spending a great deal of time there, because I will be out collecting data from local businesses, spending time on-site at the farmers market, visiting with local community centers to improve SNAP, or a variety of other things. While this may involve a little more work than I was planning on, I prefer it this way; considering my internship is designed to benefit the community it makes sense I would be spending my time working with that community rather than behind a desk.

 

– Luke Bredensteiner

Social Justice WOW Recipient

 

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