Cucumbers sold for 58 cents per pound at the grocery store, compared with 84 cents per pound at the farmers’ markets. Peaches were $1.41 per pound at the grocery store, compared with $2.70 per pound at the farmers’ markets.
Watermelon was the only produce item that was cheaper at the farmers’ markets, she said, with watermelon selling for $5 (each) at the farmers’ market, compared with grocery store for $5.17 (each) at the grocery.
The lack of origin data is one drawback to the study. Comparing Illinois apples with Washington apples doesn’t convey the value of “local’ in the pricing equation, and the same applies to all the other commodities.
Chapman-Novakofski said that while shoppers could have gotten more pounds of produce at the grocery store for the same bucks, she cautioned the study isn’t necessarily reflective of the entire U.S. She said other studies have shown that farmers’ markets can be cheaper than supermarkets.
Comparing pricing within a farmers’ market may be worthy of study. How much competition is there within a farmers’ market? That dynamic also may vary depending on location.
But consumers who go to a farmers market aren’t necessarily looking for the lowest prices. Or, at least based on this recent study, they shouldn’t.
Looking ahead, it may make sense to allow flexibility for all WIC food package benefits to be used purchase fruits and vegetables at both supermarkets and farmers’ markets.
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