One of the obstacles people working in public health and local food activism encounter when trying to promote healthy eating is the costs associated with buying fresh produce. Many people recognize the value and would love to add more locally grown foods into their diet, but are deterred by the higher price tag that comes with it.
“We hear that all the time,” said Kiana French, Farmacy Project Coordinator for AdkAction, a non-profit promoting sustainable projects in the Adirondacks, adding the issue specifically impacts people on fixed incomes. “It’s not like anyone doesn’t want to eat healthy and local, but when you are trying to stretch your food dollars, it’s often quantity over quality.”
To help address the problem, AdkAction has become an approved vendor through the Double Up Food Bucks program. A national initiative administered in New York State by the Buffalo-based Field and Fork Network, the program helps kick in an extra incentive for people receiving food assistance, by giving them a financial boost when they buy local.
Here’s how it works:
- Anyone with a SNAP debit card (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps) can sign up for the program.
- They receive a loyalty card, linked to their SNAP card.
- When they spend $10 (or more) on any SNAP-approved foods, they receive $10 in “food bucks” loaded onto their loyalty card.
- The bonus dollars can only be spent on NYS-grown fruits and vegetables. The recipient can use the bonus dollars right away or carry a balance.
The end effect is doubly beneficial, said French: It keeps money going back to local farmers, as well as improving access to fresh fruits and veggies, through offsetting the higher costs. While the incentive is capped at $10 a day, there’s no limit to the number of times a week people can receive the benefit, with a potential of earning 70 extra dollars a week.
The Double Up Food Bucks Program launched this week and is available at The Farmacy in Keeseville.
For now, the program is being self-funded through AdkAction and the organization plans to apply for funding through the Field and Fork Network next spring when the 2020 grant cycle opens. There are plans to pursue other grants as well, said French. “Ideally there’ll be no gap in funding.”
New farm store
The Port Henry Farm Store, which opened this summer, is off to a strong start, especially in the wake of the unforeseen closing of Mac’s Market, at the end of August.
“It was a shock. Especially since they closed on short notice, and there were a lot of questions as to why they closed,” said French, adding that Mac’s was the only full-service grocery store in reach for many community members.
Originally, AdkAction saw its role as providing local food access in the absence of a farmer’s market in the area, and is now taking on the responsibility of being the sole food store in Port Henry.
“We’re trying to meet the need and meet people where they’re at, ramping up offerings, more pantry staples,” French said. She’s been part of meetings with community leaders and discussions of next steps to figure out next steps.
“I’ll be interested to see where that goes and what direction it takes,” she said.