The Fair Food Network fights every day to redesign the nation’s food system so it is based on equity, diversity, ecological integrity and economic viability. It’s a system the nonprofit’s President and CEO Oran Hesterman has said is just plain broken.
“We need to fix the food system and have national and local conversations about the solutions,” he told us back in 2013. “We have to shift the system to make it work and raise the issue of the food system to serious national conversations. Food is the most basic system we have. We can’t take food for granted.”
So back in 2009 the Ann Arbor-based organization launched Double Up Food Bucks in Michigan and piloted the program in Detroit. Today that program is expanding in the US.
Double Up Food Bucks allows low-income shoppers on the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to increase their purchasing power for fruits and vegetables while supporting local growers. For instance, a family that spends $10 in SNAP benefits at a participating farmers market or grocery store receives an additional $10 in Double Up Food Bucks to bring home locally grown fruits and vegetables.
In short, Double Up does three things:
- Gets more healthy food to low-income families
- Puts more money in the pockets of local growers
- Boosts local food economies.
The program has been very successful and the Fair Food Network’s goal of redesigning the nation’s food system just took a major step forward. Its partners in nine states received more than $7 million in federal funding to launch or expand Double Up Food Bucks programs, which increase the value of food stamps for healthy foods.
With the new dollars Double Up efforts now will reach more than one million SNAP recipients in 235 farmers markets and 148 grocery and corner stores in Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri.
This is the second round of funding from the $100 million U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food & Agriculture’s Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) grants program established in the 2014 Farm Bill. Organizations that adopt the Double Up model benefit from Fair Food Network’s years of experience, along with tools and templates such as marketing materials to help them quickly establish programs in their communities.
The Fair Food Network received the second largest grant nationally to support its work in Michigan as well as Ohio.
Much work needs to be done in Southeast Michigan, specifically in Detroit. According to Fair Food Network, in Detroit 30 percent of all Detroit residents receive SNAP benefits and 92 percent of all Detroit stamp retailers offer few or no fruits or vegetables.
Earlier this year Hesterman testified before the House Committee on Agriculture Nutrition Subcommittee where he told them about the positive impact healthy food incentive programs such as Fair Food Network’s Double Up Food Bucks are having for families, farmers, and local economies.
He told Congress that in 2007, prior to the start of Double Up, annual SNAP sales at Michigan farmers markets were a mere $15,000. Preliminary 2015 data showed that last season shoppers spent more than $1.5 million in combined SNAP and Double Up at participating farmers markets and an additional $200,000 at participating grocery stores. These were dollars spent on nutritious fruits and vegetables, which all families need to be healthy.
Since the 2009 launch of Double Up in Michigan, SNAP shoppers have spent more than $8 million in combined Double Up and SNAP benefits on healthy food. More than 1,000 Michigan farmers participate annually.
To further help Detroit residents get healthy food and improve the local food system the organization is participating in the Green Ribbon Collaborative, which includes Eastern Market, Gleaners Community Food Bank, and The Greening of Detroit. The GRC focuses on developing and expanding a network of alternative food outlets in the Detroit area, providing greater access to affordable and healthy foods for area residents.
For more information on Double Up Food Bucks please click here.
– Photos and charts from Fair Food Network