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For food retailers across the country, sourcing local fruits and vegetables is often easier said than done. Among many challenges, local grocery stores offer the produce available to them through their suppliers. If suppliers are not connected to local food distributors, it limits access to such products. It often takes time and effort to source locally—but Garden Fresh has done that the work.
As grocery costs continue to rise, Fair Food Network’s Double Up Food Bucks (Double Up) program continues to help families with low income bring home more fresh fruits and vegetables.
With a dollar-for-dollar match at participating Double Up locations, people using SNAP can get more fresh, local produce for their money, up to $10 per day. And with a staggering 212% increase in usage between 2019 and 2022, Double Up is helping more people than ever before—right when they needed it most.
Double Up is a true win-win-win: Families bring home more healthy food, local businesses get a boost, and area farmers can sell more of their produce. In 2021, 85% of farmers participating in Double Up made more money, allowing them to expand production and grow their businesses.
There are now 250 participating Double Up locations across Michigan, with 24 in Detroit alone. One of those is Garden Fresh Marketplace. For owner Jonathon Morad, participating in Double Up was a no-brainer.
“I thought it was a great opportunity to pass on deals to my customers,” he said. “Based on the clientele I have and my mission as a store owner in the city of Detroit, it’s my duty to offer great fresh products.”
It can be challenging to improve and track local sourcing, though—not to mention introducing the concept of Double Up Food Bucks to customers. Morad cleared both hurdles with a single strategy: communication.
To enroll customers, he created a competition to encourage cashiers to sign up people for the program. The more people that joined the program, the more Double Up Food Bucks were spent. “A lot of customers think there’s a catch,” Morad said. “We try to explain that there isn’t. We’re just trying to get fresher food on their tables.” Once they began enlisting customers, Morad said, “The program sold itself.”
To identify locally grown produce, Morad built closer relationships with his existing distributors and vendors. “It was more about clarifying where the product was coming from,” Morad said. “Before the program started, vendors would only tell us if it came from inside the country or not. Now we’re getting exact locations.”
And in peak growing season, June through September, Detroit’s Eastern Market becomes a huge piece of Garden Fresh’s local produce puzzle. “It’s fresh, local, and at a good price point,” Morad said.
Morad credits his quality relationships with vendors for this success. By asking questions and communicating, he was able to find the local products he needed. “It’s all about who you’re doing business with,” he said.
Indeed, from customers to vendors, Morad said that making Double Up Food Bucks a success at his store came down to relationships. He is serious about his market’s role in Detroiters’ lives, and that goes beyond seeing produce fly off the shelves. When asked what local produce was especially popular, Morad said simply: “Everything.”
“Any grocer who's not a part of this really doesn’t know what they’re doing in my opinion,” he said. “You’re offering better products and healthier food for the community that can’t be found elsewhere.”
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