Michigan nonprofit gets $5.2 million to boost fresh food

April 8, 2015

Source: The Detroit Free Press
Author: David Runk, Associated Press

A Michigan nonprofit will get $5.2 million to help boost the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables for those getting food assistance by expanding a program allowing people to get more for their money at grocery stores and farmers markets, officials said Wednesday.

In this 2014 file photo, shoppers browse the Lathrup Village farmers market
on July 2, 2014. (Photo: Mandi Wright, Detroit Free Press)
The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the multiyear funding for the Fair Food Network as part of $31.5 million being distributed nationwide. The money seeks to help participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps.
"Encouraging low-income families to put more healthy food in their grocery baskets is part of USDA's ongoing commitment to improving the diet and health of all Americans," U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement. "These creative community partnerships also benefit regional food producers and local economies along with SNAP participants."
The Ann Arbor-based Fair Food Network will use the funding to help expand the "Double Up Food Bucks" program that allows people to boost their purchases of fresh fruits and vegetables. Shoppers at farmers markets, for example, can spend $10 and get a matching amount to spend that day or another day.
"With this funding, we'll reach even more people, supporting healthy food environments and resilient rural and urban communities," network president and chief executive Oran Hesterman said in a statement.
The grant will be matched by private funding, said U.S. Den. Debbie Stabenow, and new technology will be introduced to make purchases easier.
"The Double Up program helps families stretch their food budget to buy fruits and vegetables while supporting Michigan's farmers," the Michigan Democrat said.
U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Michigan, said the expanded program will help the half-dozen farmers markets in his district as well as across the state. He said farmers who come to sell their fruits and vegetables at farmers markets will see more businesses with the funding.
"Every family, no matter where they live, should have access to affordable fresh fruits and vegetables," he said.
First posted at Detroit Free Press on April 1, 2015.