DUFB soars, thanks to our on-the-ground partners

Author: Rachel Chadderdon, DUFB Program Manager

This is the first post in a series about our partners in the Double Up Food Bucks program. Stay tuned to learn more about the many committed individuals and organizations it takes to make DUFB fly.

For the last three years, the Michigan Farmers Market Association (MIFMA) and its parent organization, Michigan Food and Farming Systems (MIFFS), have organized two farmers’ markets each summer on the Capitol Lawn, bringing farmers and food producers from all over the state together to showcase the strength and diversity of Michigan’s food and agriculture industry.

Yesterday was the second time that Double Up Food Bucks (DUFB) were offered to shoppers at this special-event market. Lansing City Market, one of the 54 markets that already offers DUFB on its regular market days, processed Bridge Card* transactions for us, and dozens of customers took advantage. To date at all of our participating markets, about $400,000 in SNAP and $350,000 in DUFB have been distributed to shoppers, for a total of $750,000 in “food assistance buying power” that helps low-income shoppers purchase food from local farmers. The program has been a huge success this year, and we couldn’t have done it without our partners on the ground, such as Lansing City Market, the other participating DUFB markets, and MIFMA.

Bridge Card sign on Capitol Lawn

Bridge cards welcome at the Farmers Market on the Capitol Lawn

Over the last 5 years, MIFMA’s work has contributed immensely to the rise in the use of Bridge Cards at farmers’ markets in Michigan. When MIFMA was founded in 2006, only 3 farmers’ markets accepted Bridge Cards. MIFMA started its Food Assistance Partnership program in 2007 to increase access to healthy foods through farmers’ markets and began offering technical support to markets that wanted to accept food assistance benefits. By September 2010, 67 farmers markets were approved to accept Bridge Cards, and in 2011, there are 92 markets offering this service to their farmers and low-income shoppers in their communities. Beyond the direct benefit to customers and vendors, there is a growing consensus about the positive impact that support for local food systems can have on local economies: from the Union of Concerned Scientists to Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, who just introduced food assistance benefits used at farmers’ markets as part of his “Dashboard” for Michigan’s success.

Besides promoting food assistance use, MIMFA offers other services to its hundreds of members, which include farmers’ markets, individual market managers and market vendors. MIFMA created the country’s first market manager certification program and helps markets share resources, apply for funding to offer educational programming, and evaluate their success using on-site “Rapid Market Assessment” surveys. MIFMA also participates actively in discussions of farmers’ market policy with state agencies, as in winter 2011, when there was discussion of changing the implementation of the popular “Project FRESH” Farmers Market Nutrition Program.

At the Farmers Market on the Capitol Lawn

DUFB program manager Rachel Chadderdon and the managers of Lansing area DUFB markets. L to R: Hollie Hamel, Allen Street Farmers Market; Rachel; Joe Lesausky, Lansing City Market; Michelle Carlson, East Lansing Farmers Market

According to the national Farmers Market Coalition, only 20 states have statewide farmers’ market associations, and MIFMA is one of the most active and effective, thanks to the hard work of Director Dru Montri, Food Assistance Partnership Coordinator Amanda Segar, Assistant Maggie Smith (whose job, I’m told, is not accurately described by the word “assistant”), Communications Manager Emily Beutel, and busy volunteer board. After a lovely day at the Capitol Lawn Market, I offer huge thanks to one of our key program partners for their support and promotion of Michigan’s farmers’ markets.

*The “Bridge Card” is the Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card issued to clients in Michigan receiving federal food assistance benefits, or SNAP, formerly called Food Stamps. Depending on the audience, “Bridge Card”, “SNAP”, “EBT”, and “Food Stamps” can be used more or less interchangeably to refer to the same stream of federal food assistance funds.