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Double Up Food Bucks

Fair Food Network’s Double Up Food Bucks benefit Michigan’s low-income shoppers and local growers. SNAP participants use their Michigan Bridge Card to buy eligible food items at any participating Double Up Food Bucks farmers’ market and receive matching dollars to buy even more produce for their families. 
Michigan Nightlight: In your view, what makes your program innovative, effective or remarkable?
Fair Food Network Program Director Rachel Chadderdon Bair: When a customer using SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits shops at a participating farmers’ market, he or she receives an equal amount of Double Up Food Bucks tokens to spend in that market on fresh, Michigan-grown fruits and vegetables. The program provides a boost to low-income families’ food budgets so that they can increase their purchases of healthy, fresh foods – and the same dollars provide a boost in income to the small and mid-size growers who sell food at the participating markets.
This innovative use of private dollars to leverage a public resource to better address two simultaneous needs is unique and
Double Up Food Bucks is the only healthy food incentive program of its scale in the U.S.
highly effective -- both in terms of short-term impact and long-term systemic change. Double Up Food Bucks draws on funds pooled from foundations like the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to influence how the other already existing stream of funds -- federal SNAP food assistance benefits -- is spent
What was the best lesson learned in the past year?
Program participants are a great source of wisdom. After hearing dozens of great ideas for outreach, events, activities, and just general bookkeeping from market managers, we created a forum for Double Up Food Bucks participating market managers to communicate with each other. This helps make the program run more smoothly for everyone, including our Double Up Food Bucks staff, and helps us continually refine the program. Customers often contact us with tips for budgeting and give their ideas on what to do with new fruits and vegetables they’ve tried because of Double Up Food Bucks.
It has been fun and enlightening to listen to participant feedback; we now have a growing collection of information to use in future educational and outreach materials. 
What was the hardest lesson learned in the past year?
No matter how much care we take in planning and implementing a program, there are some things that remain out of our control -- especially in a program focused on local agriculture. 
Double Up Food Bucks helps SNAP shoppers stretch their food dollars at farmers’ markets for Michigan-grown fruits and vegetables. This year’s early spring was followed by a late frost and a summer drought that has put much of Michigan in a state of agricultural emergency. The apple crop is predicted to be less than 10% its normal size and field crop production has slowed, except where constant irrigation was available. 
When we select new market sites each season, we look especially to partner with markets in historically underserved neighborhoods and those with higher percentages of residents of color.
We know that this natural disaster will affect the program, and have worked with markets to educate customers about what produce will be available this season.
What really differentiates this program?
Double Up Food Bucks is the only healthy food incentive program of its scale in the U.S. With over 70 participating farmers’ markets, plus alternative sites like food trucks and fresh food share programs, it reaches Michigan Bridge Card holders in over 50 cities. It helps put over $1 million of healthy food onto Michigan tables annually, while directing those dollars into the local food economy. The program is flexible enough to work well at markets ranging in size from two to 250 vendors, so it functions more or less the same way across all sites. This makes it simple to scale up to more markets in new communities as the resources become available. This consistency also makes it easy to evaluate the impacts of the program on customers’ diets and farmers’ revenue.
What are the keys to success for your program?
Partnerships have been critical to its success. 
By working with state agencies like the Michigan Department of Human Services, as well as local organizations like the Kent County Essential Needs Task Force and Detroit Community Markets, we are able to reach out to hundreds of thousands of Bridge Card holders to spread the word about the program. 
And by drawing on the expertise of the Michigan Farmers Market Association and Detroit Eastern Market, we can ensure that the program operates smoothly for markets and the farmers who sell at them.  These partnerships, and many others like them, have made Double Up Food Bucks a streamlined, effective program that works well for customers, farmers, markets, and communities.
How does race or diversity among children who benefit from Double Up Food Bucks affect the work of this program?
When we select new market sites each season, we look especially to partner with markets in historically underserved neighborhoods and those with higher percentages of residents of color. Approximately 42 percent of SNAP benefits recipients in Michigan are children.
Markets like Eastside Farmers’ Market and Oakland Avenue Farmers’ Market in Detroit, Kalamazoo’s Douglass Farmers’ Market, and the South East Area Farmers’ Market in Grand Rapids were created by local organizations to address a lack of access to healthy foods in their neighborhoods. 
The ability to accept food assistance benefits is crucial for the survival of markets like these, and Double Up Food Bucks strengthens them further by bringing more customers with more buying power to the markets.  
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  • Fair Food Network
    Fair Food Network is a non-profit organization that works in partnership with other organizations to design a food system that upholds the fundamental right to healthy, fresh and sustainably grown food, especially in historically excluded ...


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