John Dingell launches Double Up Food Bucks in Washtenaw County

September 8, 2010

Author: Corinna Borden

Congressman John Dingell, Oran Hesterman of the Fair Food Network and Amanda Edmonds of Growing Hope spoke Tuesday afternoon at the Downtown Ypsilanti Farmers Market to launch the Double Up Food Buck program in Washtenaw County.

As I wrote about in July, the Double Up Food Bucks program matches every food stamp dollar spent at a farmer’s market up to $20 per visit.

Congressman Dingell spoke in support of the program from his perspective, “as the sole remaining author of the three of us who introduced and moved forward with the food stamp bill back in the Eisenhower administration.” Our nation has been supplementing nutrition for low-income individuals and families for more than 50 years, and our representative was there at the beginning.

Currently, 12.9 percent of the U.S. population receives federal food assistance benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), historically and commonly known as the Food Stamp Program. Dingell outlined the scope of the issue for our state, reporting that, “Michigan now has more than 17 percent, 1.75 million of our people, … on food stamps.”

Double Up Food Bucks launches this week in four markets in Washtenaw County and in Calhoun County (Battle Creek area) this weekend. From this week until the end of October, Double Up Food Bucks will be accepted at all Washtenaw farmers markets that accept SNAP benefits: the Ann Arbor Farmers Market (7 a.m.-3 p.m.Wednesdays and Saturdays), Westside Farmers Market (3-7 p.m. Thursdays through Sept. 30), Ypsilanti Depot Town Farmers Market (8 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturdays), and the Downtown Ypsilanti Farmers Market (2-6 p.m.Tuesdays).

Rachel Chadderdon, program manager for Double Up Food Bucks, explains the decision to stop at the end of October. “We will take a break – while Michigan produce takes a break – and then once there is enough Michigan produce, probably in June or July next summer, we will start up with those three sites [Detroit, Washtenaw, and Calhoun] and as many other sites that we can find funding for around the state. We hope to be running this program for the next three summers.”

Funding for the program comes from major foundations such as the Kresge Foundation and the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, with a one-to-one match from George Soros’ Open Society Foundations for each dollar of local foundation funds received. One such local source is the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation (AAACF). AAACF Vice President Martha Bloom, a fellow audience member, shared that they have given the Double Up Food Bucks program “one grant, and there is a potential for more.”

Hesterman hopes the Double Up Food Bucks program will create data to “share with Congressman Dingell and others in Congress to show them that it is time for us to move from this kind of program being funded solely by foundation dollars…into federal legislation as the next generation of food assistance programs.”

As witnessed by cameras, videos, and wind-blown audience members, Congressman Dingell reiterated his promise to help the program when successful. In the octogenarian’s words, “If you guys can make this new proposal work, I’ll be glad to try to help you get it into law.”

Corinna volunteers with the Westside Farmers Market and wrote a about many things.