GREENBRIER, Ark., June 8, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded $94,000 to the Arkansas Coalition for Obesity Prevention (ArCOP) to launch a healthy food incentive program in 19 farmers markets across the state, bringing more fresh produce to low-income residents while supporting local farmers. The grant was matched with $25,000 from the Walmart Foundation State Giving Program and other local support totaling more than $116,000.
The program, called Double Up Food Bucks, matches SNAP benefits (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly food stamps) spent at participating sites with additional funds that can be spent on locally grown fruits and vegetables. So if a family spends $10 in SNAP benefits at a farmers market, they get an additional $10 to buy more Arkansas grown fruits and vegetables.
"I am proud to support this project because it's a commonsense way to connect low-income families with healthy food options provided by local farmers," said U.S. Sen. John Boozman, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee. "Increasing access to fresh fruits and vegetables creates a healthier community and economy. This is a win for Arkansas."
The program is expected to reach 188,000 residents across rural and urban communities—more than half of the state's SNAP-eligible population.
Arkansas has the highest adult obesity rate in the nation. Participating Double Up markets will target places of greatest need in the state, including areas with lowest life expectancy, high poverty rates, or limited food access.
Double Up was launched in 2009 in Michigan by national nonprofit Fair Food Network. It has since become a national model for healthy food incentives. This year, 19 states will have active Double Up programs in farmers markets, grocery stores, or both.
"Double Up is a proven success: low-income families eat healthier foods, local farmers make more money, and more food dollars stay in the local economy," said Katrina Betancourt, President of the Arkansas Coalition for Obesity Prevention, which will administer the program.
Program partners include Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance, Arkansas Department of Human Services, Arkansas Department of Health, the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service, and the Arkansas Farmers' Market Association.
Funding comes from the USDA National Institute of Food & Agriculture's Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive grants program, which received bipartisan support in the 2014 Farm Bill.
"Double Up Food Bucks not only provides nutrition assistance, it also assists in expanding market opportunities for our producers and helps to put money back into our local economies," said Arkansas Secretary of Agriculture Wes Ward. "This is a solution that is working for Arkansas's families and farmers."
The Arkansas Coalition for Obesity Prevention (ArCOP) aims to making the healthy choice the first choice. The coalition's mission is to improve the health of all Arkansas communities by increasing physical activity and healthy eating to reduce and prevent obesity. www.arkansasobesity.org
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SOURCE Arkansas Coalition for Obesity Prevention