What is the best way to address hunger in the Upper Valley? Well, there might not be a single “best” way, but the fight against food insecurity is getting a big boost with the launch of the national healthy food incentive program Double Up Food Bucks at the Co-op Food Stores of Hanover, Lebanon, and White River Junction.
Double Up provides low-income Americans who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits with a one-to-one match to purchase healthy, locally grown fruits and vegetables.
Customers receive a 50% discount off fresh produce purchased with SNAP benefits. “I’m thrilled that the Co-op Food Stores is taking part in this program to empower people to make healthier choices and buy local with SNAP benefits,” said New Hampshire Congresswoman Annie Kuster. “The Double Up Food Bucks program is a great way to better support low-income families while directing resources toward local farmers and New Hampshire’s agricultural sector.”
Local food sourcing at the stores of the Co-op ranks high in New England due to the cooperative’s broad collaboration with area farmers. Those connections with growers make the rollout of Double Up Bucks at the Co-op particularly welcome for recipients and program organizers alike.
The wins are three-fold: families bring home greater quantities of healthful food, local farmers gain new customers, and additional food dollars stay in the local economy. Each has ripple effects across the community.
“The Vermont Foodbank knows that a big barrier for many shoppers getting enough fresh produce is cost, said John Sayles, CEO of the Foodbank. “Giving people with lower incomes the ability to stretch food budgets while eating local using Double Up Food Bucks keeps both our neighbors and farms healthy.”
The task of incorporating Double Up Food Bucks into a multi-store business and produce departments the size of the Co-op’s took a number of months for systems integration. The payoff of those efforts is clear as close to 100 SNAP recipients enrolled in the program’s first few weeks.
That brisk response is doubly good news for Emily Rogers, the Co-op’s Member Education Manager. For her, the launch of the Double Up Food Bucks program is also boosting the Co-op’s Food for All access program which was launched in 2015 and discounts all SNAP-eligible purchases by an extra 10 percent. Rogers said, “Enrollment in Food for All has shown a nice uptick among shoppers coming in for Double Up Bucks. The more people we help, the better.”
Double Up Food Bucks is welcome news for Thresea, a local senior citizen who was one of the first to sign up at the Co-op Food Stores. “Produce is yum, yum, yum! Discount at the Co-op with my EBT card takes lots off nice, fresh stuff so I can get what I need.”
Double Up New Hampshire is supported by a coalition of funders including Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation, HNH Foundation, New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, The Samuel P. Pardoe Foundation, as well as “You Have Our Trust” Fund of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation. In partnership with Fair Food Network, key partners include New Hampshire Food Bank, which will be conducting store tours through its Cooking Matters program, and UNH Cooperative Extension, whose network of educators will help raise awareness among SNAP recipients.
Double Up runs June 1 through Dec. 31. It will return with the beginning of the spring harvest in 2019.