Fair Food Network’s buy-local incentive spreads from farmers markets to Detroit grocery stores

June 1, 2012

Source: Crain's Detroit Business
Author: Sherri Welch

A program that encourages Bridge Card holders to buy more produce at farmers markets across the state is expanding to three full-service grocery stores in Detroit.

The Ann Arbor-based Fair Food Network launched the Double Up Food Bucks program in 2010, initially at Detroit’s Eastern Market and four other markets in the region, to get people eating more produce and to give a boost to Michigan farmers.

Now the Fair Food Network is taking aim at full-service grocery stores.

Farmers’ markets are a great way to support local farmers, but most people buy most of their food at grocery stores, said program director Rachel Chadderdon Bair.

In order to really shift purchasing habits toward healthier, … locally grown foods on a larger scale, we need to be working in places where most people are doing their shopping."

The Fair Food Network is talking with full-service grocery stores from a list provided by the Associated Food and Petroleum Dealers, which is funding the grocery store pilot along with the McGregor Fund, Kresge Foundation, Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan and the Battle Creek-based W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

It plans to select three grocery stores for the grocery store pilot by July 1 and to launch the program at those stores in September.

"Part of the selection process will be making sure (the stores) are willing and able to provide ample amounts of Michigan-grown produce for the pilot," Bair said.

The pilot could run for up to four months, depending on how long the growing season is, how long Michigan produce is available and how long matching funds last, she said.

The Double Up Food Bucks program provided about $600,000 in matching dollars for the purchase of locally grown produce at 53 Michigan markets and two in Toledo last year.

The program will expand to a total of 75 farmers markets this year, along with mobile food pantries and food banks, for over 100 participating locations, Bair said.

The Double Up Food Bucks program launched in 2010 at the five metro Detroit markets before expanding that first year to 10 other farmers’ markets in Ann Arbor, Battle Creek and Toledo.

The New York-based Open Society Foundations, Kresge Foundation and Community Foundation stepped up as the initial funders for the program.

By last year 30 funders were providing match dollars, and the Fair Food Network expects support from about 40 this year, Bair said.

Many local community foundations have renewed their commitments for next year, and the program continues to see funding through multi year grants from larger foundations, she said.

The Double Up Food Bucks program will provide matching dollars totaling $750,000 to $1 million this year for the purchase of Michigan-grown produce, helping people to eat healthier while supporting Michigan farmers, Bair said.

Originally published May 23, 2012 at Crain’s Detroit Business.