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Struggling Texans Can Double Money at Farmers' Markets

A coalition of organizations is working to launch a large-scale Double Up Food Bucks program soon in Houston. (Pxhere)
A coalition of organizations is working to launch a large-scale Double Up Food Bucks program soon in Houston. (Pxhere)
July 9, 2018

LUBBOCK, Texas — One-in-four Texas children is food insecure, meaning he or she frequently doesn't know where the next meal will come from. But a program launched in Detroit to help more struggling families access healthy food is starting to take root in Texas.

"Double Up Food Bucks" lets recipients of SNAP - formerly known as food stamps - double their benefits, up to $20 per visit, if they buy locally grown fruits and vegetables at participating farmers markets. Andy Black, regional director at Baylor University's Texas Hunger Initiative in Lubbock, called the program a "triple win."

"It stretches the dollars of low-income SNAP recipients. But it also, you know, grows the customer base, it provides an economic boost for local farmers, especially at farmers markets,” Black said. “And overall it's a boost to the entire community."

Since many SNAP recipients live in areas known as food deserts, where fresh produce isn't readily available, Black noted the Double Up program - if expanded to more markets across the state - could help more Texans eat nutritious meals.

Critics of SNAP claim the program encourages unemployment, and the U.S. House recently passed a farm bill that would expand work requirements in order to receive benefits. The requirement was dropped in the U.S. Senate’s version of the bill.

Black said he believes there are many misconceptions about SNAP recipients, noting that many farmers selling their produce at markets are either currently receiving the benefits or have received them in the not-so-distant past.

"But the reality is the vast majority of SNAP recipients are children, they're the elderly, seniors, they're people with disabilities,” he said. “They're people with jobs, sometimes multiple jobs, jobs that don't pay enough to sustain a stable lifestyle."

Currently, the only farmers markets officially participating in Double Up are near Amarillo, Lubbock and Waco. The Fair Food Network, the national organization behind the program, also has provided support for efforts in Austin, San Antonio and Houston, where a coalition of organizations hopes to launch a large-scale program soon.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - TX