CHICAGO — Fair Food Network recently announced a pioneering initiative that will double the value of SNAP benefits, also known as food stamps, when used for fresh produce in participating Detroit groceries.
The project builds on Fair Food Network’s successful Double Up Food Bucks program, which doubles the value of SNAP benefits at farmers markets throughout Michigan.
“Most families get the bulk of their food at grocery stores,” said Oran Hesterman, president and CEO of Fair Food Network. “Taking Double Up Food Bucks into groceries is the logical next step for helping vulnerable families get the fresh produce they need, while also supporting local and regional growers.”
Support for SNAP incentive programs such as Double Up Food Bucks has built steadily in recent years. The farm bill passed by the U.S. Senate includes funding for similar projects. The grocery pilot, however, is the first of its kind.
Hesterman unveiled the project during the Clinton Global Initiative America meeting in Chicago, an annual gathering focused on finding solutions that promote economic recovery in the U.S.
The grocery project will operate in three independent stores — Honey Bee Market, Metro Foodland and Mike’s Fresh Market — between July 1 and Oct. 31.
This pilot phase is expected to increase access to healthy food for 5,000 low-income Detroiters.
Since 2009, Double Up Food Bucks has grown to include 100 farmers markets across Michigan and in Toledo, Ohio. The project provides low-income consumers who receive SNAP — or Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program — funds with extra buying power by matching up to $20 spent on each visit at a participating site.
In a 2012 survey of the program, 83 percent of participating farmers said they made more money at farmers markets with Double Up Food Bucks. More than 75 percent of SNAP users said the program helped increase the amount of fruits and vegetables they consume.
Fair Food Network obtained a special waiver from the USDA to operate the pilot, with support from the Michigan Department of Human Services.