Shopping for local food on a budget: Part two

MSU Extension offers tips for stretching your dollar when buying local foods.

Double Up Food Bucks how it works. Photo credit: Double Up Food Bucks
Double Up Food Bucks how it works. Photo credit: Double Up Food Bucks

Michigan farmers markets, roadside stands and grocery stores offer several different food assistance programs designed specifically to increase the local food buying power of Michigan residents.

Anyone with a Michigan Bridge Card for SNAP Electronic Benefits Transfer can use their benefits at most farmers markets in Michigan. Many markets also offer the Double Up Food Bucks program which provides $2 in free tokens to buy Michigan-grown fruits and vegetables for every $2 that is spent on a Michigan Bridge Card. Through this matching program, Bridge Card holders can receive up to $20 in free tokens per day. Double Up Food Bucks has recently expanded into some grocery stores. In participating grocery stores, when Michigan Bridge Card holders purchase Michigan-grown fruits and vegetables, they receive $1 in free Double Up Rewards for every $1 spent. Double Up Rewards can be used to purchase any fruits or vegetables available for sale in the same store. To find farmers markets and grocery stores near you that offer Double Up Food Bucks, visit the website.

Another program, WIC Project FRESH provides free coupons to women with children up to age five (excluding infants) who are enrolled in the WIC program in Michigan. These coupons can be redeemed for fruits and vegetables at authorized farmers markets and roadside stands. To find out which markets accept WIC Project FRESH coupons, use the Find a Farmers Market tool from the Michigan Farmers Market Association.

Seniors that meet income qualifications can get free Senior Project FRESH/Market FRESH coupons to purchase fresh produce at authorized farmers markets and roadside stands. Use the Find a Farmers Market tool from the Michigan Farmers Market Association to locate markets that accept Market FRESH coupons.

Hoophouses for Health is yet another program that helps Michigan residents buy more local produce by distributing vouchers to local Head Start programs and other community organizations. This program is a win-win for both voucher recipients and farmers: voucher recipients get free produce and farmers receive a zero interest loan to purchase a hoophouse, which they repay by accepting vouchers. Learn more about the Hoophouses for Health program here. The Find a Farmers Market tool can help you find markets that accept Hoophouses for Health coupons. When you get to the market, look for vendor signs or ask the market information booth to help you find participating vendors.

Farmers market managers interested in accepting food assistance can contact the Michigan Farmers Market Association at 517-432-3381 or visit their website to learn more.

Michigan State University Extension publishes regular articles on food budgeting and offers educational programming for SNAP-Ed, WIC Project FRESH and Senior Project FRESH/Market FRESH.

For more ideas on how to eat local on a budget, read part one of this article series.

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