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A double win for fresh food

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(Read caption) Fresh produce awaits shoppers at the Van Houtte Farms stand at the Royal Oak Farmers Market in Royal Oak, Mich. A program called Double Up Food Bucks lets residents in nutritional assistance programs buy twice as much fresh food as they could have before.

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Detroit is home to the longest-running public farmers’ market in the country, as well as to many low-income residents who receive government aid in purchasing food. But until recently, those worlds didn’t really meet: of $361 million in SNAP benefits (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps) spent in the city in 2010, less than $200,000 went to farmers’ markets.

A new program is working to close the gap, in Detroit and beyond: to increase access to fresh, healthy food for low-income residents of inner cities and “food deserts” while simultaneously strengthening the local economy and improving the livelihoods of farmers and rural communities.

The program, called Double Up Food Bucks (DUFB), is a project of the nonprofit Fair Food Network. It’s a simple idea: SNAP shoppers use their benefits at a participating farmers’ market and receive tokens for an equal amount to purchase any Michigan-grown fruit or vegetable at the market. In effect, food dollars spent at farmers’ markets are doubled, up to $20 per market day. By spending $20 of SNAP benefits at the farmers’ market, the shopper comes home with $40 worth of healthy, fresh, regionally grown produce.

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