It’s finally starting to feel like summer, which means local produce is becoming more abundant, a time that many of us look forward to. We know Montanans love supporting local, visiting farmers’ markets, picking up a weekly bounty of local produce from a CSA, and choosing local at a neighborhood grocery store. We also know that a lot of community members would love to support local and eat more fresh produce, but their limited budgets make it difficult.
Due to various life and economic circumstances, many Montanans utilize SNAP, or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the nation’s largest largest anti-hunger program, to make ends meet. CFAC believes everyone should have the opportunity to access healthy, local food and to participate in our great state’s local food system. We have worked towards this vision in the past by starting the state’s first EBT program, which allows customers to use their SNAP benefits at farmers’ markets. And now we are proud to be a coordinator of the Double SNAP Dollars (DSD) program. While the program is available year round at the Missoula Community Food Co-op, it increases in popularity during the summertime because the majority of DSD retailers are farmers markets or CSA providers.
The DSD program offers double the value on SNAP benefits at farmers markets, on CSA shares, and at the Missoula Community Food Co-op. For example, shoppers can spend $10 of their SNAP benefits and receive $10 free to spend on fresh fruits and vegetables. Folks with limited incomes often have to sacrifice food security (and health) for other expenses like bills and rent. On average, SNAP only provides around $4 a day – a very limited food budget considering this price does not even cover the cost of some cups of coffee. SNAP is supposed to be supplemental, meaning it’s a boost to the recipient’s food budget. In reality, that’s often all a family has to spend on food. This is why DSD is such a vital program – it gives people access to nutritious foods that they might not have otherwise.
DSD can have a profound impact on customers. In fact, 95%+ of customers reported that DSD helped lessen their concerns about having enough money to eat healthy meals. We hear uplifting stories all of the time about customers’ excitement over the ability to feed themselves and their families with local produce, sometimes even expressed as tears of joy. One of our customers was happy to share their DSD experience with us: “This is the first farmers market I have attended and because of this program I will buy fresh, local produce and support local growers and economy!”
SNAP customers aren’t the only beneficiaries of this program, local farmers are the backbone of DSD and the program would not be possible without them! An important aspect of Double SNAP Dollars is supporting proper compensation for farmers. The program relieves farmers of the burden of lowering prices to make produce more affordable and spreads that cost around to the rest of the community and even the federal government. Farmers are often equally as excited to get local produce into the homes of more customers as customers are themselves. One of our Missoula Market vendors said it best: “The more money people get, the more they will spend” – which was made evident by the 29% increase in EBT sales among DSD retailers in 2016. In fact, when you add this increase in sales plus the value of Double SNAP Dollars spent, over $100,000 was spent on local and fresh foods in Western Montana in 2016. Not only do farmers and local businesses like the Missoula Food Co-op see an increase in sales, but the program generates a considerable economic stimulus in communities that offer DSD.
DSD is appreciated by so many because it is a win-win-win! It promotes food security, healthy diets, small agriculture, and the local economy. People want to participate in their local economy, support their farmers, and eat well. Double SNAP Dollars allows for all of this to happen. For our part, CFAC is doing what we can to help more and more retailers take advantage of the many great benefits of this program- three more retailers in three different communities joined the Double SNAP team this year! Check out our website to see all participating locations, learn more, and even check out a recipe or two: DoubleDollarsMT.com. Be sure to like our Facebook page as well: DoubleDollarsMT.