Double Up Food Bucks Grows in Michigan with USDA, State & Philanthropic Support
Double Up Food Bucks is growing in Michigan thanks to new federal, state, and philanthropic support. USDA awarded Fair Food Network a $3.5 million grant to expand and innovate the Double Up program in Michigan, Colorado and New York.
By: Rachel Kelly, Center for Regional Food Systems
Double Up Food Bucks is growing in Michigan thanks to new federal, state, and philanthropic support. In August, the USDA awarded Fair Food Network a $3.5 million grant to expand and innovate the Double Up Food Bucks (Double Up) program in Michigan, Colorado and Western New York. The grant was matched by new state funding alongside philanthropic support.
Double Up was created by Fair Food Network in 2009 in Detroit. It has since expanded to become a statewide program and national model for SNAP incentives active in more than 20 states across the country. Double Up matches the value of SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) when spent on fruits and vegetables with a financial benefit to local growers. This arrangement benefits both food assistance recipients and area farmers and grocers by providing an incentive for SNAP users to consume more locally grown, healthy food.
The federal funds to expand Double Up came from the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) grant program established in the 2014 Farm Bill.
U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, has been a steadfast champion of this program. In the Senator’s press release about the USDA grant, she stated, “The Double Up Food Bucks initiative has been a success for both farmers and families. In the 2014 Farm Bill, I fought to include innovative opportunities like this to improve access to healthy, local food in communities and create new ways for Michigan farmers to sell their products locally.”
According to Fair Food Network’s website, results from the Double Up program include:
- $9.9 million in sales of healthy food in SNAP and Double Up since 2009
- Over 1,000 farmers participate each year
- 92% of Michigan residents live in a county with a participating DUFB site
- Number of sites participating has grown from 5 to over 200 since 2009
Fair Food Network will use the funds to expand the Double Up program and find new ways to innovate it. From the Fair Food Network press release, the organization plans to prioritize the following:
- Grocery expansion in Michigan, Colorado, and Western New York. While SNAP incentives began in farmers markets, grocery is a critical venue to reach more consumers. Many grocery sites in Michigan will also start running year-round.
- Technology Innovations:
- E-Incentives: Until recently, most farmers markets processed incentives with physical tokens. New electronic transaction technologies will be deployed in all three states.
- Interoperability: In select Michigan communities, shoppers will be able to earn Double Up Food Bucks at one site and redeem them at a different location. This technology was developed in Flint to help residents get more fresh produce in response to the lead crisis. Double Up is now reaching approximately 40% of SNAP households in Flint, up from 9% before the launch of this tech innovation one year ago.
In an official USDA press release about the FINI grant awards, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said, “These grants help provide low income families with the resources they need to consume more nutritious food. Last year, SNAP helped put healthy food on the tables of at least 44 million Americans, including 19 million children…This builds on the successes of health-related incentives, with many of the projects being conducted at farmers markets. At the same time, we’re also helping to strengthen local and regional food systems.”
For more on how Double Up Food Bucks works and to see the impacts its having throughout Michigan and now in other states nationwide, visit Fair Food Network’s website.