The U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded $99,587 to the Iowa Healthiest State Initiative, to expand Double Up Food Bucks, the State’s produce incentive program, which provides fresh fruits and vegetables to low-income Iowa families while supporting local farmers. The grant is matched with private funds bringing total project support to $250,000.
Iowa Healthiest State Initiative, a nonprofit organization, was founded in 2011 by local business leaders in recognition that public health is equally a work force and economic viability issue. Public-private partnerships have been instrumental to the organizations ability to make changes. “We recognize that if we’re going to make changes it can’t just be done by government agencies and it can’t just be done by the private sector,” said Jami Haberl, Executive Director of the Healthiest State Initiative. “ We must work together to support the long-term viability of our state, of our community, and even of our workforce.”
Double Up was launched in 2009 in Michigan by the national nonprofit Fair Food Network. It has since become a national model for healthy food incentives and is active in more than 20 states. This is the third round of federal funding for healthy food incentives programs provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) grants program established in the 2014 Farm Bill.
While Iowa is a national agricultural leader, the state ranks last when it comes to fruit and vegetable consumption. Double Up Food Bucks helps low-income families bring home more nutritious produce, by matching SNAP benefits spent at participating sites up to $10 a day. Those additional dollars can be spent on locally grown fruits and vegetables. For example, if a family spends $10 in SNAP benefits at a participating farmers market, they will receive an additional $10 to buy more Iowa grown fruits and vegetables. (SNAP stands for the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program formerly known as food assistance.)
“Double Up Food Bucks connects low-income families with healthy food grown by Iowa farmers,” said Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds. “Increasing access to fresh fruits and vegetables is key to growing healthier communities and stimulating a stronger economy. Double Up is a win for Iowa.”
Expanded funding will double the number of participating sites and pilot a tablet-based app at select markets allowing vendors to electronically process Double Up incentives. This technology will simplify the experience for customers and participating vendors while streamlining program administration.
In 2017, the Double Up program aims to serve nearly 5,000 Iowa families resulting in $100,000 worth of fresh produce sales at Iowa farmers markets, directly benefitting more than 300 farmers in the state.
Also new this year, shoppers at five market locations will benefit from nutrition education and planning tools provided by Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. Educators will be onsite to teach customers about produce selection, storage, cleaning, and preparation. Providing this type of education helps set families up for success when they leave the market by providing tools to help them plan meals and snacks in a way that works for their family, their budget, and their schedule.
“Double Up Food Bucks’ success is rooted in partnerships,” said Jami Haberl, Executive Director of the Iowa Healthiest State Initiative referencing the diverse public and private partnerships fueling Double Up in Iowa including state agencies, local markets, nonprofits, community leaders, and businesses including AmeriHealth Caritas Iowa and UnitedHealthcare which are providing statewide funding. “Our partners are strengthening the program and ensuring its continued positive health and economic impact for all Iowans.”
“We are grateful for the opportunity to partner with Iowa Healthiest State Initiative to expand Double Up Food Bucks to support more Iowa families and farmers,” said Kim Foltz, CEO, UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Iowa. “Access to fresh fruits and vegetables helps people live healthier lives, and fosters better health and well-being among our families and communities.”
A complete list of partners, funders, and Double Up locations can be found at www.iowahealthieststate.com/double-up-food-bucks.
2017 Double Up Food Bucks Participating Farmers’ Markets
Black Hawk County:
Greens to Go Nonprofit Mobile Produce Stand, Waterloo, IA***
Spencer’s Riverfront Farmers’ Market, Spencer, IA
Dubuque Farmers’ Market, Dubuque, IA
Iowa City Farmers’ Markets, Iowa City, IA
Cedar Rapids Downtown Farmers’ Market, Cedar Rapids, IA
Beaverdale Farmers’ Market, Des Moines, IA
Downtown Des Moines Farmers’ Market, Des Moines, IA***
Drake Neighborhood Farmers’ Market, Des Moines, IA
Lutheran Services in Iowa Global Greens Farmers’ Market, Des Moines, IA
Valley Junction Farmers’ Market, West Des Moines, IA
Grinnell Farmers’ Market, Grinnell, IA
Red Earth Gardens, The local food source of the Meskwaki Nation, Tama, IA***
Northeast Iowa Winneshiek Farmers’ Market, Decorah, IA
***Sites participating in the wireless SNAP-EBT and Double Up gift card transaction system pilot program.
Editor’s note: This article was provided by the Iowa Healthiest State Initiative.