Double Up Food Bucks program offered at farmers market

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published July 8, 2015

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ROCHESTER — Low-income families can double their money to buy more locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables at the Downtown Rochester Farmers Market this year.

Rochester Downtown Development Authority Marketing Coordinator Nancy Voges said this is the first time the market has participated in the Double Up Food Bucks program, which strives to provide affordable fresh produce for residents who receive food assistance.

The Double Up Food Bucks program, Voges said, gives recipients of public assistance access to fresh, healthy food while supporting the local farm economy and bringing more customers to the market.

“It’s a great way to encourage people to eat healthier,” Voges said.

The seasonal program, managed by the Fair Food Network in Ann Arbor, provides customers who use their federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — also known as SNAP — benefits to shop at the market with a one-to-one match to purchase Michigan-grown fruits and vegetables. 

Through Oct. 31, Downtown Rochester Farmers Market customers who swipe their SNAP Bridge Card at the market’s information booth will receive free Double Up Food Bucks silver tokens. Voges said Double Up Food Bucks matches every $1 of SNAP funds, up to a maximum of $20 per market visit.

The Double Up Food Bucks silver tokens are worth $2 each and can only be redeemed for Michigan-grown, unprocessed fruits and vegetables, or plants that produce food.

Unlike the market’s SNAP currency, Voges said, the Double Up Food Bucks silver tokens are transferable from market to market, and customers may redeem silver tokens at any of the participating locations in Michigan.

“The nice thing about the Double Up Food Bucks is the silver coins can be used at any market in Michigan, not just at our market. Our EBT wooden tokens have to be used at the Downtown Rochester market,” Voges said.

Double Up Food Bucks Program Manager Elissa Trumbull said the program began with five farmers markets in 2009 and has grown to include more than 150 farmers markets and grocery stores throughout the state, benefiting more than 300,000 low-income families and more than 1,000 farmers.

“Generally, what we see is an impact that is threefold,” she said. “In the immediate sense, families are able to bring home more healthy foods to their families, farmers are gaining new customers and they are making more money, and more food dollars are staying and supporting the local economy,” Trumbull said. “What we have seen, in terms of impact for families, is that more than 90 percent of the customers who shop at participating locations using their benefits report eating more fruits and vegetables because of the program. They also report buying fewer high-fat and low-nutrition snacks. The farmers who are participating in the program are reporting that they sell more fruits and vegetables and that they are making more money from the program.”

The Downtown Rochester Farmers Market is open from 8 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturdays through Oct. 31 at the corner of East Third and Water streets, a block east of Main Street. For a complete list of participating Double Up markets, visit www.doubleupfoodbucks.org.

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