Study supports SNAP incentives

August 24, 2014

Source: The Packer
Author: Tom Karst

A new study of the Michigan’s Double Up Food Bucks program shows incentives that boost local fruit and vegetable purchases for food stamp participants are effective.

“The numbers show that offering incentives to use SNAP benefits for fresh produce works,” Fair Food Network president and chief executive officer Oran Hesterman said in a news release. “There should not be a question of whether we support hungry families or local farmers — we can do both, and we can do it nationwide.”

In five years, the release said Fair Food Networks’ Double Up Food Bucks (Double Up) SNAP incentive program has benefited more than 200,000 low-income families and more than 1,000 growers.

The program grew from a pilot in five farmers markets in Detroit to a statewide program with more than 150 sites including farmers markets, food share programs, mobile food trucks and grocery stores across Michigan, according to the release. The program has helped Michigan’s economy by more than $5 million, according to the release.

The program gives SNAP participants who spend $10 in SNAP benefits (formerly known as food stamps) at a participating farmers market or grocery store an additional $10 of Double Up Food Bucks to purchase Michigan grown fruits and vegetables, according to the release.

The study found:

  • more than 90% of SNAP recipients at farmers markets report eating more fruits and vegetables because of Double Up;
  • more than 80% buying fewer low-nutrition snacks;
  • more than 1,000 farmers participated in Double Up in 2013; 90% report selling more fruits and vegetables, and 85% report making more money;
  • Michigan has become one of the top five states in the nation for SNAP use at farmers markets and the highest in the Midwest; in 2013, 8% of all SNAP sales at farmers markets took place in Michigan even though less than 4% of total SNAP recipients live in the state.

This year, the release said the Fair Food Network will work with three independent grocery stores in Detroit and also expand the Double Up program to Battle Creek and Grand Rapids in a new partnership with SpartanNash, a national food distributor and grocery chain headquartered in Michigan. The expansion follows a 2013 grocery store pilot in Detroit, one of the first in the nation to bring incentives to grocery stores, according to the release.

“Moving Double Up into groceries across the state means we will reach more low-income families and help more Michigan farmers sell more produce to their neighbors,” Hesterman said in the release.

The 2014 farm bill includes $100 million for the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive, a new grant program that will support communities to launch and expand programs like Double Up across the U.S., according to the release. The program’s model and associated tools have been compiled into a toolkit to support communities outside Michigan interested in starting a healthy food incentive program, according to the release.

“We have proven that SNAP incentives can be implemented statewide with benefits to consumers, family farmers, and the state’s economy,” Hesterman said in the release. “We’re confident that resourceful partners in other states can use this model to serve hungry families and hard working farmers across the nation.”

First posted at The Packer on August 20, 2014.