Healthy Food Incentive Program Part of New Farm Bill
In February a bipartisan team led by Michigan senator Debbie Stabenow achieved long-sought-after passage of the five-year, comprehensive Agricultural Act of 2014. Known as the Farm Bill, the legislation includes $100 million to support the Food Insecurity Network Incentive Program, a new program designed to improve access to healthy foods among low-income families.
The national program is modeled on the successful Double Up Food Bucks, a program of the Ann Arbor-based Fair Food Network. Double Up Food Bucks was piloted five years ago on Detroit’s near-east side with a grant from the Community Foundation.
Double Up Food Bucks doubles the spending power of low-income Americans using Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits used to purchase locally grown fruits and vegetables.
“The beauty of the program…is that every federal dollar spent does double duty, providing a dollar in real nutritional assistance and a dollar in new farm sales,” said Oran Hesterman, Fair Food Network founder and president.
Comprehensive evaluation data on Double Up Food Bucks reveals that 95 percent of participating SNAP customers report buying more fruits and vegetables. The program has elevated Michigan to one of the top states for SNAP benefit use at farmers’ markets. And 85 percent of Michigan farmers report making more money as a result of the program — more than $5 million over the first five years of the program, a figure that is growing rapidly as more farmers’ markets sign on to participate.