Through partnerships with local organizations, the national nonprofit Fair Food Network is expanding its program that increases accessibility to healthy food.
A program that helps low-income communities gain access to healthy food options is expanding across the country through local partnerships.
Last week nine states received federal funding to run the Double Up Food Bucks program, which the Fair Food Network originally started in Michigan to give individuals on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) an extra dollar for every dollar spent—up to $20—at participating markets. The Network created the model so other organizations could then adapt it for their respective states, Program Director Noah Fulmer said.
The Arkansas Coalition for Obesity Prevention, which operates in the most obese state in the U.S., is running a pilot of the program with the funding it received. “This was a definite need to have something like this, and we know our lower economic folks in our rural areas and in our food deserts just don’t have access to healthy affordable foods, and that’s one of our main missions,” ArCOP President Katrina Betancourt said.
ArCOP also runs a Growing Healthy Community program, which brings farmers markets to rural areas to make healthy, affordable food more accessible. The 18 SNAP eligible markets from this initiative will participate in the Double Up Food Bucks program through ArCOP, Betancourt explained.
Meanwhile, the New Mexico Farmers Marketing Association introduced Double Up Food Bucks as a pilot program in the state last year. With the new funding, NMFMA will expand it to 90 sites in the state, which has the third-highest level of child food insecurity in the country.
“We’ve got a lot of communities where there is just people struggling to stretch their food budgets every month, and we want as many as those people to be able to shop at farmers markets and other venues where there’s locally grown food as possible,” NMFMA Executive Director Denise Miller said. “Locally grown food should be something everyone can afford to purchase.”
NMFMA engaged its member farmers markets to participate in the program, which will also help support the local farmers who grow fruits and vegetables. “This program really serves two masters in that it helps low-income people purchase more food, and it helps the farmers earn more revenue,” Miller said.
The Network was able to expand its program by partnering with local organizations that can lead the effort and bring community leaders together, then by equipping them with a toolkit of materials and templates to adapt to each context, Fulmer said. Creating this standardized program model reduces the burden on farmers markets, ensuring that it will be successful.
Through the partnerships, the Network also provides technical assistance, answers questions about the program, and presents benchmarking data to its partners.
While NMFMA benefitted from the Network’s adaptable marketing materials and templates, Miller said “having data that is comparable across states and across organizations” was most important to building policy and obtaining federal funding.
Betancourt said the availability of program data gave ArCOP a better sense of what to expect after launching the program.
The Network is currently supporting active Double Up Food Bucks programs in 19 states, along with similar programs in two additional states. Other states included in last week’s second round of federal funding were Michigan, Ohio, Oregon, Utah, Texas, Arizona, and California.