The Heart of the City staff team works hard to increase vendor revenue by facilitating customer spending, attracting new customers, linking our vendors with food assistance programs that increase customer spending, and shouldering the burden of paperwork for our farmers to accept alternate forms of currency. In 2016, grant writing and promotional efforts by market staff increased vendor revenue by $453,634, a new record.
Staff at our market information tent handed out 1,192,733 tokens in 2016, an average of 12,000 tokens per market day. That is unprecedented for a farmers market and makes us the largest farmers market token program in California and one of the largest in the nation. Our program has grown so big that our small team must work at a frantic pace to meet the demand for sales, redemption, tracking, reporting, and inventory management.
EBT Program: We hit a new record high in 2016 in our efforts to expand our EBT customer base. EBT sales in 2016 increased by more than $85,000 over 2015 sales. Due to our ongoing promotional efforts, EBT sales have increased by 322% from $123,000 in 2010 to over $419,188 in 2016. We are the largest EBT program of any California farmers market and are held as a national model for executing large-scale EBT operations on a low budget with a smaller than average staff team. We train other market managers on best practices to create strong community partnerships and manage a high-volume system.
Market Match Program: Our staff continues to execute a two-year federal Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive grant secured in 2015 that allows us to match all EBT purchases up to $5. $255,618 in blue Market Match incentive tokens was distributed in 2016, which EBT customers used to purchase additional produce from our farmers. This program alone provided an average of $4,925 in extra sales revenue per farmer in 2016. We are currently working with the Ecology Center to apply for funding to continue this program for another three years.
EatSF and CHIVES Voucher Program: Heart of the City Farmers Market has partnered with San Francisco General Hospital Foundation and the EatSF team to provide fruit and vegetables to low-income Tenderloin residents in need. At the end of 2016, this partnership was expanded to include more participants as a part of the CHIVES program. Market staff accepts and fills out vouchers at the market tent in exchange for red tokens to shop with farmers. Our farmers benefitted from $113,016 in extra revenue from this program in 2016.
Credit Card Program: We continue to facilitate customer spending and level the technological playing field among vendors by swiping credit cards at the market information tent in exchange for green tokens. Credit card purchases increased to $440,032 in 2016 from $404,911 in 2015. We continue to pay the credit card processing fees at no cost to farmers or customers.
WIC Program: We continue to help farmers by redeeming their Women Infants and Children and Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program vouchers for them, so they don’t have to deposit them in their own bank accounts or pay any of the associated fees. Farmers turned in $35,609 to us in WIC checks in 2016. We now accept WIC Fruit and Vegetable Checks.
VeggieRX: We also accept VeggieRx vouchers in partnership with Fresh Approach.