How the SNAP incentive program helps Iowa farmers
It is estimated that meals in the United States travel about 1,500 miles before they reach your plate. That seems hard to imagine in Iowa where we are surrounded by rich soil and family farmers growing everything from sweet corn to apples.
Imagine a program that helps get more of the food grown in Iowa into the mouths of Iowans.
When people first hear about Double Up Food Bucks, it's often assumed that the customer is the main benefactor because they are able to match their SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance program, formerly known as food stamps) funds dollar-for-dollar for Double Up Food Bucks and spend them on fresh fruits and vegetables.
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However, the benefits of the program are, in fact, three-fold: Not only do low-income Iowans get access to healthy foods, but farmers make more money, and more food dollars stay in the local economy – instead of going 1,500 miles away.
“As a farmer, the increase I see in customers gives me more energy to continue to grow vegetables,” said Mariselina Simon, a vendor at LSI Global Greens Farmers Market in Des Moines.
In 2018, shoppers purchased $48,138 in fruits and vegetables from local farmers. Since the program was started in 2016, sales have continued to increase. The LSI Global Greens Farmers Market where Simon sells vegetables sold more than $15,000.
FULL REPORT: 2018 Double Up Food Bucks Annual Report
The program is funded through public and private partnerships, with federal grants being matched by donor dollars. Iowa House File 632, currently introduced in the Legislature, would appropriate $100,000 to support the expansion of Double Up Food Bucks.
Additional funding, like HF632, would provide opportunities for the Double Up Food Bucks to scale up and increase the impact the program has on overall communities. When asked if they were interested in spending additional SNAP dollars if they would be matched with Double Up Food Bucks, nearly all shoppers said “Yes.” Nearly half said they’d spend between $5-$20 while 44 percent said they’d spend $20 or more.
This extra money spent on healthy food would go directly into the pockets of family farmers and, in turn, the communities where the live and work. A single dollar spent at a farmers’ market can generate $2.80 for the local economy!
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Double Up Food Bucks shoppers enjoy purchasing fruits and vegetables from local farmers, with more than 80 percent saying the quality and selection at the farmers market is much better than where they normally purchase produce. These consumers also reported purchasing more healthy food as a result of the program.
“As a vegetable farmer, we make very little money,” said a Double Up Food Bucks vendor who participated in an anonymous survey of farmers. “I want to be able to grow food for everyone in the community, including low-income families.”
Vendors also enjoy participating in Double Up Food Bucks, with 100 percent saying they plan to participate again. The program helps them increase their sales, move product and gain new customers, strengthening local and regional food systems.