Assessing sense of community at farmers markets
A systematic review
Farmers markets are valuable for reducing food insecurity and delivering healthy food options to populations living with low incomes. However, farmers markets have developed a reputation for being exclusive shopping spaces devoted to affluent, white shoppers. Sense of community (SOC), or a person’s feelings of belonging at farmers markets, could be an important, under-addressed asset or barrier to farmers markets patronage for people living with low incomes. To document and describe how SOC influences customer engagement with farmers markets, we conducted a systematic review of published, peer-reviewed literature following PRISMA guidelines. Systematic review protocol involved three stages: identifying peer-reviewed articles using key search terms, screening abstracts and articles for inclusion and exclusion, and analyzing articles for SOC at farmers markets. Of the 24 articles included in the systematic review, 10 addressed SOC in farmers markets shoppers living with low incomes, 6 addressed SOC in farmers markets shoppers living with middle to high incomes, and 8 did not indicate the shoppers’ income level. SOC served as both a barrier and facilitator to farmers markets patronage for all income levels. However, farmers markets shoppers who received federal food assistance reported a feeling of exclusion discouraging them from shopping at farmers markets. These negative experiences were more prominent among Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color (BIPOC) living with low incomes. SOC appears to be an important factor in determining who shops at farmers markets and the frequency with which they visit. Farmers markets managers should consider how to strengthen SOC to improve engagement with people living with low incomes, and more specifically, BIPOC living with low incomes.
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