Utahns Against Hunger and 21 farmers’ markets across the state are launching the second season of Double Up Food Bucks.
Double Up Food Bucks is a nutrition incentive program that helps low-income families bring home more fruits and vegetables from local farmers’ markets. The program matches the value of SNAP benefits (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps) dollar-for-dollar, up to $10 dollars per market day at participating farmers’ markets and farm stands. The matched benefits, known as Double Up Food Bucks, can be used to purchase Utah-grown fruits and vegetables, or plants or seeds that produce food.
This year over 20 farmers’ markets and farm stands will participate in Double Up Food Bucks statewide, up from 17 markets in 2015. Most of the markets are situated along the Wasatch Front, but markets in Logan, Roosevelt, Tooele, Cedar City, St. George and Moab are also participating. Close to 90 percent of SNAP households in the state of Utah live in a county with at least one farmers’ market participating in the Double Up program.
Brian Emerson, Community Food Systems Coordinator at Utahns Against Hunger, says that the primary purpose of Double Up Food Bucks is to increase access to healthy food, “Double Up Food Bucks expands food assistance benefits while helping low-income residents take home more fruits and vegetables – foods that are often more expensive and less accessible than unhealthy processed foods.”
Preliminary research from the first year of Double Up Food Bucks suggests that the nutrition incentive program works. Researchers from Utah State University evaluated the impact of Double Up Food Bucks on consumer behavior in 2015 and found that participation in the program was associated with increased consumption of fresh produce, and a reduction in food insecurity.
But Emerson says the benefits of the program are much broader. “Double Up Food Bucks is a win-win-win for everyone. The program simultaneously reduces hunger and improves people’s access to healthy food, supports Utah farmers with new customers and more income, and strengthens the local economy by keeping food dollars circulating in the community.”
Double Up Food Bucks is active in a growing number of states across the country, from Arizona and Texas, to New York. In 2015 Utahns Against Hunger (UAH) worked with a number of partners to bring the program to Utah, including Utah State University Extension, the Utah Department of Workforce Services, the Utah Department of Health, and the Michigan-based Fair Food Network (the creator of the first Double Up program). UAH was awarded a competitive Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) grant from the USDA in 2015 to implement the program. UAH also received support from local funders, including Salt Lake City Corp and Ally Bank.
The 2016 Double Up Food Bucks season runs through mid-November. Information on the program and participating markets can be found at www.uah.org/projects-initiatives/fms/ or by calling toll-free 800-453-FOOD (3663).