Double Up Food Bucks program helps increase Bridge Card sales at West Michigan farmers markets
Early estimates Show a 400% increase in 2011 compared to previous year
GRAND RAPIDS – Early estimates of figures collected from farm vendors at several West Michigan farmers markets show more than $404,000 in SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) Bridge Card sales in 2011. This is an increase of more than 425% from the 2010 sales figure of $95,000. Much of this success can be attributed to the leadership of Gordie Moeller, a retired social worker and volunteer food systems activist.
Moeller worked with several area organizations, including Michigan State University (MSU) Extension, to contact farm market vendors and encourage them to begin accepting Bridge Cards at their farm market booths and on-farm markets. In 2010, there were only five farmers markets in the eight-county region of West Michigan (Allegan, Ionia, Kent, Montcalm, Muskegon, Newaygo, Oceana and Ottawa) that accepted Bridge Cards. After a significant outreach effort by Moeller and partners, that number increased to 22 farm vendors and eleven farmers markets in 2011 with five of these markets participating in the Double Up Food Bucks Program. Moeller is working to get 19 West Michigan farmers markets to participate in Double Up Food Bucks in 2012.
The Double Up Food Bucks Program is a statewide program run by the nonprofit organization Fair Food Network. The Kent County program is supported by the Grand Rapids Community Foundation. Double Up Food Bucks provide matching funds for farmers market purchases made by those using SNAP Bridge Cards. Up to $20 in purchases of Michigan-grown fruits and vegetables can be matched at each visit. This means $40 worth of fresh fruit and vegetables costs a Bridge Card holder only $20. State of Michigan data indicates that approximately 20% or 246,000 individuals and families in the eight county West Michigan region purchase food with SNAP Bridge cards.
Kent County MSU Extension partnered with United Growth for Kent County, Inc. to award Moeller with their annual Land Use Stewardship Award last fall to recognize his efforts. Moeller stated, “The healthiest, freshest food comes from our local farmers. One of the biggest barriers to healthy food access is transportation, but since many farmers markets are located in urban areas within walking distance, accepting Bridge Cards at farmers markets is a win for families and a win for farmers.”
MSU Extension Educators also worked with Moeller to distribute posters listing community farmers markets and on-farm markets that accept Bridge Cards. MSU Extension was excited to partner with an organized volunteer who was dedicated to the cause of increasing access to locally grown food. Thanks to Gordie, many of our local food guides now include a logo to let the public know where Bridge Cards are accepted. We look forward to continue to promote Bridge Card acceptance and the Double Up Food Bucks Program in 2012.
Farmers or Farmers Market Masters interested in accepting SNAP Bridge Cards at their market should visit www.fns.usda.gov/snap/ebt If you have questions or issues with this website, contact Robin Masters with USDA at 317-510-7226.