WASHINGTON, Feb. 3, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In testimony today before the House Committee on Agriculture Nutrition Subcommittee, Fair Food Network President and CEO Oran B. Hesterman shared the positive impact healthy food incentive programs such as Fair Food Network's Double Up Food Bucks are having for families, farmers, and local economies.
"Healthy food incentives work," said Hesterman. "Matching SNAP benefits with incentives for locally grown fruits and vegetables has an immediate return on investment by reducing hunger, boosting produce consumption, and growing farm income. Through this one intervention, we can meet immediate food needs and build a healthy population."
The design of Double Up is simple: For every dollar a SNAP customer spends on locally grown produce they receive a matching Double Up dollar to spend on more fruits and vegetables.
In 2007, prior to the start of Double Up, annual SNAP sales at Michigan farmers markets were a mere $15,000. Preliminary 2015 data show that last season shoppers spent more than $1.5 million in combined SNAP and Double Up at participating farmers markets and an additional $200,000 at participating grocery stores—dollars spent on nutritious fruits and vegetables, which all families need to be healthy.
Congress responded to the success of such pilots by creating the $100 million Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) competitive grants program in the 2014 Farm Bill. Fair Food Network was honored to receive a grant last spring in the first round of funding, which it matched with $5 million in additional private funding.
In his testimony, Hesterman commended Congress for the positive impact FINI is having for the field. He also underscored that the results such programs are generating provide government the information it needs to expand this proven public-private partnership.
"Our seven years' experience has shown that by partnering across disciplines, we can integrate healthy local produce into an existing federal nutrition program and create multiple benefits simultaneously," said Hesterman.
FAIR FOOD NETWORK is founded on the belief that vibrant local food systems can create health and economic opportunity for all. A national nonprofit, we work with a diverse network of partners and pioneer solutions that support farmers, strengthen local economies, and increase access to healthy food—especially in our most underserved communities. Central to our mission is designing programs that create on-the-ground impact and serve as replicable models that inform public policy. Dig deeper at fairfoodnetwork.org and join us on Facebook and Twitter @FairFoodNetwork and @OHesterman