The Double Up Food Bucks program saw substantial growth in sales across Iowa in 2019. Customers participating in the healthy food incentive program redeemed a total of $132,430 to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables at 34 different locations.
The program allows SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps) customers to match purchases of fresh produce made with their EBT card, up to $10 per day, with Double Up Food Bucks which can be spent on additional fruits and vegetables.
In 2018, there were 14 participating locations, including three co-op food stores, farmers markets and farm stands, in the program with a combined total sales at $15,818. This year, the number of participating locations more than doubled, including additional markets, co-ops and 14 Fareway locations. Between May and December 2019, Fareway customers alone redeemed $96,885 in Double Up Food Bucks.
“We were proud to integrate the Double Up Food Bucks program in key store locations in 2019, as it allowed us to better service customers who need access to fresh fruits and vegetables to feed their families,” said Reynolds W. Cramer, president and CEO of Fareway.
Double Up Food Bucks, administered statewide by the Healthiest State Initiative, has received positive feedback from SNAP participants, as well as farmers and grocers who see increased revenue and customers from the program. Of the farmers surveyed, 100 percent said they would participate in Double Up Food Bucks again next year.
“The Double Up Food Bucks program increased our sales at nearly every farmers market we attended this year,” said Molly Schintler of Echollective Farm in Mechanicsville. “When farms like ours thrive, rural economies thrive.”
“We saw more customers that probably wouldn’t have been able to afford to come to market to purchase extra food for their families or themselves,” said Kathy Salow of Kirkwood’s SunCountry Produce in Hopkington. “It boosted our sales, it brought more people out, and we had return customers.”
Double Up Food Bucks is active year-round at all participating grocery stores. Hy-Vee plans to pilot the program in two of their stores in January. Most farmers markets and farm stands will resume in May 2020. A complete list of participating sites can be found here.
Double Up Food Bucks started as a pilot program in 2016 with six farmers markets. The program receives federal SNAP incentive funding, including a three-year grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The funds are then matched with private contributions bringing total project support to nearly $1 million. Double Up Food Bucks in Iowa is sponsored by Amerigroup, Bank of America, Advocare Foundation, Alliant Energy and ITC Group, and supported by local partners.
A customer who spends $10 in SNAP benefits at a participating site receives an additional $10 in free Double Up Food Bucks to spend on locally grown fruits and vegetables. The program provides a 1:1 match, up to $10 per day.