Double Up Food Bucks Program
Double Up Food Bucks increases food access in northwest Michigan.
The Grand Traverse Region of northwest Michigan has been recognized for its agricultural and food scene-award winning chefs, farm to table restaurants, and thriving farms and farmers markets that many enjoy. Unfortunately the benefits of this thriving agri-food system are not enjoyed by all Northwest Michigan residents. U.S. Census Bureau figures suggest the five county (Antrim, Benzie, Grand Traverse, Leelanau) region’s poverty rate averaged 13 percent between 2009-2013. Over 21,000 people live below the poverty line in northwest Michigan. Forty-six percent of students in the five-county region qualify for free and/or reduced school meals. The Northwest Food Coalition, which provides food to families in need, distributes over 22,000 meals each month to area residents.
In spite of these challenges, a December 2014 Northwest Michigan Food Security Report commissioned by the Benzie Sunrise Rotary Club suggests that “Resources exist in the five county Grand Traverse area to create a food secure community which provides for individual food security for all of our neighbors.” One of the major objectives of the Northwest Michigan Food and Farming Network is that by 2020, 100 percent of our residents have access to an ample, high-quality, healthy, and culturally diverse diet. One relatively new initiative that has increased food access is the Double up Food Bucks Program.
The Double up Food Bucks Program (DUFB), initiated by the Fair Food Network, provides Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits recipients with a free one-to-one match to purchase healthy, locally grown fruits and vegetables. The number of customers, and SNAP and DUFB dollars distributed to customers, has steadily increased in northwest Michigan since the program’s northwest Michigan launch in 2011. In 2014, 21 northwest Michigan markets participated in the program, and over 80,000 customers redeemed nearly $260,000 in DUFB and SNAP dollars. Recent pilot efforts in Michigan that seek to integrate DUFB into grocery stores, where most people do their shopping, could further enhance food security efforts in Michigan and beyond.
Due to the success of Double up Food Bucks, on the national stage the 2014 Farm Bill was passed with $100 million in funding over five years to expand the program. When matched with requisite $100 million in private funding, there will be $200 million for the program, an order of magnitude more than the program was previously spending.
With programs like Double up Food Bucks and continued efforts of multiple organizations, we are striving to ensure that everyone can benefit from the region’s rich agricultural heritage and thriving local food movement.
For more information please visit Double Up Foodbucks or listen an informative National Public Radio story that provides an overview of the program. You can also contact Michigan State University Extension Community Food System Workgroup for more specific information on this and other statewide Community Food System efforts.