One in 11 Iowans face hunger, a total of 297,800 people. Programs like Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, and by extension, Double Up Food Bucks (DUFB), aim to tackle the issue of food insecurity in our state. A crucial partner in this effort is our local farmers markets including the Freight House Farmers Market located in Davenport. They believe the program plays a key part to increase access to affordable and nutritious food while growing the local economy.
Freight House Farmers Market is run by a small but mighty team. The duo of Lorrie Beaman, who serves as the Executive Director in her sixth season, and Summer Rosenmohr, the Assistant Executive Director, see the market run year round. They total about 300 vendors, 12,000 visitors per weekend, and run social events on top of it all. Despite having a full work schedule, they joined the Double Up Food Bucks network during the COVID-19 pandemic.
IHS Executive Director Jami Haberl (Left), Freight House Farmers Market Executive Director Lorrie Beaman (Center), and IHS Healthy Incentives Director Aryn McLaren
“It’s been huge, it started during COVID and getting that boost during the pandemic was important,” Beaman said. “It’s also been big for local farmers, and we’ve seen the customer base increase and we’ve gotten a much more diverse customer base because of it”. Continuing this conversation, Beaman mentioned a key part of integrating DUFB to their market is inclusivity. Many people in the community didn’t feel like it was their market or that they weren’t welcome; they felt like it was an upper middle class farmers market. Tackling that misconception was crucial for them, and it has paid off.
It’s been a quick success since the program launched at Freight House two years ago. From about $35,000 redeemed the first year, to nearly $270,000 today. “We talk to everyone in a way that makes them feel like they belong, we guide them on what to get and where to go and how to shop in the market to get all the value out of it,” Beaman said.
Why Are Farmers Markets and Double Up Food Bucks Important to Iowa?
Beaman knows there will likely always be food insecurity, in fact, their area is earmarked as an area with higher levels of food insecurity than many communities. Anecdotal stories show why making local markets more accessible is important.
“Many people would get their groceries from nearby gas stations because it was the closest, easiest option,” she said. Welcoming all members of the community to the markets is vital. It allows growers to expand their operations, and increases interest in growing for a profit for people who are just getting started with growing their own foods. Not only this, but Beaman stressed the interconnectedness it creates in the community. Offering Double Up Food Bucks at the market has been key in welcoming new shoppers to the market that may not have visited before.
“People will pay for the value from markets knowing it came from someone within 100 miles,” Beaman said. “And even when they can’t, they shouldn’t be denied access to it.”
The team at Freight House Farmers Market know that farmers markets across the state have a big hand in fighting food insecurity in Iowa. Not to mention, how it will help them grow and enrich their community. “Looking at the bigger picture and looking ahead to how we are going to be relevant five to ten years from now we ask, what role can we take in making sure people get good healthy food in our community?” Beaman said.
The “triple win” that the Double Up Food Bucks program and local farmers markets create can help Iowa in a major way economically, socially, and from a community health standpoint. Local farmers get more sales from having new customers welcomed at markets, those customers get more real fruits and veggies to eat for their families, all the while keeping Iowan’s dollars in the local economy.
The importance and effect of the program isn’t lost on the team either. “It’s probably a reason why we are both still here working hard, it feels good knowing you’re doing good,” Beaman said. “We always say have fun and do good, it’s just what we do.”
For more information on the Double Up Food Bucks program, or to find a participating market or store near you, visit the Double Up Food Bucks site at doubleupiowa.org