Pilot to double fresh produce benefits at retail

06/20/2013 04:23:00 PM
Tom Karst

A pilot program allows Detroit consumers to “double up” on food stamp benefits when buying Michigan-grown fruits and vegetables in selected grocery stores.

The program is an expansion of an existing effort by the Fair Food Network, Ann Arbor, Mich., which doubles Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamp) benefits of in-state fresh produce at farmers markets.

From July 1 to Oct. 31, Double Up Food Bucks will be available in three grocery stores in Detroit: Metro Foodland, Honey Bee Market and a Mike’s Fresh Market location.

Customers spending at least $10 on fruits and vegetables using a SNAP card will receive a Double Up Food Bucks card worth $10 toward their next purchase of Michigan-grown produce, according to the Fair Food Network.

Double Up Food Bucks draws on funds contributed by about 40 foundations to provide SNAP recipients with “matching” purchases at participating locations, according to the group’s website.

The program matches SNAP purchases at the markets, up to $20 per day.

The program operates at 100 farmers’ markets in Michigan, said Liza Baker, executive assistant of the Fair Food Network. Participants have redeemed the vouchers for about $1.5 million in bonus purchases of Michigan produce since 2009, she said. While there are similar programs in the U.S. that offer extra fruit and vegetable benefits for SNAP recipients at farmers’ markets, Baker said the Michigan program is larger and covers the entire state,

“There are programs that do something similar, but very often it is just a single market or a group of markets under one organization,” she said.

Baker said the benefit for participants in the retail pilot will be issued in the form of a gift card.

“You would qualify for $10 based on spending $10 and then you get a $10 gift card that you can use the same day or when you come back,” she said.

One challenge in the pilot is getting point-of-sale systems in place to track fruit and vegetable purchases to accurately determine when the benefit is reached, she said.



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