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Grant Connects More Low-Income Michigan Families with Fresh Food

PHOTO: The Double Up Food Bucks program, which allows SNAP recipients to double their benefits at participating famers markets, will soon expand to more locations around the state. Photo credit: Xavier Gallardo/Morguefile.
PHOTO: The Double Up Food Bucks program, which allows SNAP recipients to double their benefits at participating famers markets, will soon expand to more locations around the state. Photo credit: Xavier Gallardo/Morguefile.
April 7, 2015

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - A program that allows low-income Michigan families to stretch their food assistance dollars will soon be able to help even more households bring home fresh fruits and vegetables, thanks to a major grant.

Utilizing the Double Up Food Bucks program, Michiganders who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP benefits, can double their money when they shop at one of the 150 participating farmers markets in the state.

Oran Hesterman, president and CEO of the Fair Food Network, which administers the program, calls it a triple-win situation.

"It enables low-income families to bring home more healthy food, while at the same time putting more money into the pockets of Michigan farmers," he says. "And it keeps food dollars circulating in the local economy."

The Fair Food Network was recently awarded a $5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to expand the program, which was matched by another $5 million in private funds. According to Hesterman, the program will move into additional farmers markets and grocery stores over the next four years. More information is at the Double Up Food Bucks website at www.DoubleUpFoodBucks.org.

Hesterman says the grant will also support new technology and other program innovations, all of which will add to what he calls a major policy success story.

"Close to 90 percent of all customers who are using the program are telling us they're buying and using more fruits and vegetables when they use Double Up Food Bucks," he says. "And 85 percent of the farmers tell us they're making more money because the program is in place."

The Double Up Food Bucks program has strong support from Senator Debbie Stabenow, who fought to include SNAP incentive grants in the most recent farm bill, which was signed into law in East Lansing last year.

Mona Shand, Public News Service - MI