Double Up Food Bucks is Back and Bigger than Ever!

Fair Food Network’s Double Up Food Bucks program is back this summer and bigger than ever!  The official kickoff for 2011 is July 9 at Detroit Eastern Market – come join us if you can!  Look for our tent between 10:30am and 1:30pm outside the Welcome Center, near Shed 3 on Adelaide Street.

What is Double Up Food Bucks

Double Up Food Bucks (DUFB) is a program that demonstrates the effectiveness of incentives to promote healthier purchases with federal food assistance dollars…well, that’s the official goal. Here’s what it does on a more practical level: DUFB provides funds to match SNAP (food stamp) purchases made at farmers’ markets. If a customer spends $10 of SNAP benefits at a participating market, he or she gets an EXTRA $10 to spend on Michigan-grown fresh fruits and vegetables. This way, more healthy food gets on the tables of low-income families, and more cash goes into the pockets of Michigan’s small- and mid-size farmers. For more specifics on how the program works, visit the DUFB website.

DUFB started as a pilot at five markets in Detroit in 2009, and expanded to include 10 more in Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Battle Creek, and Toledo, Ohio, in 2010. This year, we are proud to partner with 46 individual market sites, run by 35 different managing organizations, to offer DUFB across the state of Michigan.

DUFB Billboard 2011

Off to a great start

While the official kickoff isn’t until this weekend, the participating markets started distributing DUFB tokens the first week of June, and we’re thrilled to announce that to date, over $64,000 in DUFB tokens have been distributed to match over $77,000 in SNAP benefits spent at the participating markets for a total of nearly $142,000 in buying power for fresh, healthy, local foods for low-income shoppers…and that’s before our radio ads started running, before billboards went up, and before the peak season of Michigan produce. It’s only going up from here!

As the Program Manager for DUFB across the state, I can tell you that the success of the program since June has a lot to do with the enthusiasm of our market partners around the state. They range in size from fewer than 10 vendors who set up tents in parks or parking lots to dozens of vendors in permanent structures. Some are in urban centers or residential neighborhoods, others are on the outskirts. But they’re all excited about DUFB and have been promoting the program in their cities and neighborhoods to draw in over 1,200 new Bridge Card customers.

I’ve been able to visit a few so far. Here’s a bit about them.

Dearborn MarketWe visited the Dearborn Farmers Market on their very first day of Double Up Food Bucks, and there was plenty of excitement!  The market is in a city parking lot behind Bryant Library in downtown Dearborn every Friday from 8am-1pm. There were 20 or so vendors on June 4, but manager Joan Reed says more will come as their produce comes in. This semi-urban market was bustling: several school groups were there on field trips (the students each had to ask a vendor three questions about where the food was from and how it was grown/made). A musician was playing and singing some classic tunes. The local community college’s radio station was there doing a live broadcast, and the library staff had a booth, too. Oakwood Community Health, a local nonprofit clinic, offered nutrition education and blood pressure screenings. This market’s community focus complements DUFB very well!

The Eastside Farmers Market is the new incarnation of the Warren/Conner Development Coalition’s former East Warren Avenue Farmers Market, which participated in DUFB in 2009 and 2010. Located in the parking lot of the Mack Alter Square shopping center on Saturdays from 10am-3pm, it is grabbing more customers with its convenient location, additional vendors, and live music. The market is on the Eastside of Detroit, in a neighborhood with particularly low access to healthy food and high prevalence of Bridge Card use – an ideal market for DUFB participation. Market staff told me they’re still looking for additional produce vendors – right now Detroit Eastern Market and UpSouth Foods (a produce truck company) supply the fruits and vegetables. But a nearby community garden plans to have a booth once a month, and the Grown in Detroit cooperative will also be bringing fresh Motown-grown goodies later in the summer. There are plenty of baked goods and jams, and a barbecue vendor if you’re in the mood for lunch. When I visited, a market volunteer was surveying customers about their experience of the market – W/CDC plans to carefully measure the outcome of the market’s move to prove what I could see in my brief visit: this market is making an impact on the health of its customers and the surrounding community.

Eastside Market

The Kalamazoo Farmers Market is one of our biggest and oldest participating markets. Founded circa 1945 and with over 60 vendors and an estimated 5,500 customers on a busy Saturday, it is buzzing with activity and full of Kalamazoo Markethistory. Asparagus, strawberries, and garlic scapes were out in full force, along with tender spring greens, radishes, early turnips, and starter plants for last-minute gardeners. KFM operates Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays from 7am-1pm. Customers can only use Bridge Cards and get DUFB tokens on Saturdays, when the People’s Food Co-op is there to operate the EBT machine. Local nonprofit Fair Food Matters (no affiliation with FFN, other than through DUFB) helps with outreach work to bring customers to the market and is administering FFN’s grant for all three Kalamazoo markets (the others are the 100-Mile Market and the Douglass Farmers Market).

Bath Township had just had some showers (har, har) on June 23 when I stopped by to visit their farmers’ market, but the skies were clear, and the afternoon shoppers were out by 5pm to visit this tiny gem of a market. Just northeast of Lansing, the market sets up in Couzens Park on Webster Road on Thursday afternoons from 3-7. The market’s semi-rural park location is ideal for a weekly bluegrass jam session that a local musician has set up during market hours. The township is also working on arranging a weekly outdoor concert series at the site later in the summer. All in all, this is a lovely small-town market with some beautiful Michigan produce available.

Bath Market

And of course, Detroit Eastern Market, the largest and oldest open-air market in the state (and maybe in the country, depending on whom you ask), is a strong participant in DUFB. They’ve been accepting Bridge Cards since 2007, and have the highest SNAP sales of any farmers market in Michigan. There’s no way to explain the energy and excitement about food, farms, and the local economy that is present at Eastern Market on a busy summer Saturday – you have to experience it yourself.

So please come join us for the kickoff!  Here are the details again:

Detroit Eastern Market
Market is open 5am-5pm; Bridge Cards accepted 7am-4pm
We’ll be there 10:30am-1:30pm
Look for the blue Fair Food Network tent outside the Welcome Center near Shed 3 on Adelaide Street
Bridge Card users get a free DUFB tote!