Incentive Program Helps Low-Income Families Buy Fresh Produce, Support Local Farmers

By: Caroline Vandergriff Email
By: Caroline Vandergriff Email

The Michigan Fair Food Network's "Double Up Food Bucks" program has expanded to more than 100 sites across the state this summer, including eight different farmers markets in the Lansing area.

The program gives Bridge card users incentive to buy more Michigan grown produce. Customers who shop at participating locations with their Bridge cards, will get back double what they spend. That means if you go to your local farmers market and spend $20 on your Bridge card, you'll get an additional $20 in tokens to buy Michigan produce.

Organizers say the program not only increases the access low-income families have to healthy food, it helps support local farmers as well.

Alex Jasinowski's family has been growing fruits and vegetables in Michigan for about 30 years.

"My family's store, Sweet Seasons Orchards, goes to several markets around the state."

Jasinowski has seen an increase in business lately, thanks to the "Double Up Food Bucks" program.

"The 'Double Up Food Bucks' program has been very good for us because it promotes the Michigan farmer and gets people out to the market that normally wouldn't come out to the market," said Jasinowski.

"This is more money coming into their pockets," said Dru Montri, director of the Michigan Farmers Market Association. "To support them and Michigan's economy."

Not only does the program give a boost to Michigan farmers, it gives Michigan families more access to healthy foods like blueberries, raspberries, peaches, cherries, tomatoes, and peppers - just a sample of the diverse produce grown in Michigan and sold at local farmers markets.

"If you're not eating healthy, that contributes to diet-related diseases like obesity and diabetes that we see prevalent in urban areas," Rachel Chadderon Bair, program director for "Double Up Food Bucks" at the Fair Food Network.

"Double Up Food Bucks" works to break down barriers to healthy eating by making fresh produce more affordable. Jasinowski puts it simply, saying it's just great for the community.

"It really helps out the people with lower incomes," Jasinowski said. "Food can be expensive now, especially with fresh fruit and locally grown stuff, so the 'Double Up Food Bucks' really helps people come out and get healthy stuff."

The "Double Up Food Bucks" program is at 75 different farmers markets across the state. For a full list of participating markets, go to

All bridge card holders are eligible to participate, and the program runs from June through November.

People are using their federal benefits when they shop with their Bridge cards, and then the "Double Up Food Bucks" money comes from private funds from across the state and the country. With that funding, organizers say the program will continue into next summer, at the very least. They hope to keep it going much longer than that, if funding can be secured.

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  • by Josh on Jul 19, 2012 at 11:29 AM
    What they should do it give people on bridge cards double for buying fresh healthy food, but only give them half for buying pre-processed junk food. I realize that this is kind of allowing the government to tell people what they should eat, but in my opinion if you are using government money to buy your food, there's nothing wrong with them telling you what you can spend the money on.
  • by Will Location: Jackson on Jul 17, 2012 at 10:16 PM
    So local farm aren't doing very well. Go to Meijer or Walmart. They have plenty of food. 10 for 10 sales at Meijer. We buy at least 30 cans of Chef Boyardee, burritos and 30 pack Mtn Dew. Prices have actually went down. Sure there is less fresh produce than before, but we get all the major items for the kids at discount cost.
    • reply
      by Josh on Jul 19, 2012 at 11:30 AM in reply to Will
      I'm glad you consider a 30-pack of Mountain Dew one of the "major items for the kids". /sarcasm
  • by Farmer on Jul 16, 2012 at 08:28 PM
    One thing I see here I disagree with. Farmers are not the rich. We, in most cases, are just trying to get by as it is. Sure, this places a burden on all of us, but at least it's somewhat shared, and it is at least helping some.
  • by Anonymous on Jul 16, 2012 at 03:38 PM
    • reply
      by Josh on Jul 19, 2012 at 11:26 AM in reply to
      Because growing your own garden is possible when you live in a crappy housing development. I find it hard to believe that you have a job, given your awful spelling and your use of upper-case type.
  • by Anne Location: Lansing on Jul 16, 2012 at 11:07 AM
    I saw that at the Farmer's Market last week. I consider myself a Liberal and all but how far does this need to go, seriously? The $20 was already free food to begin with and now we are going to give them double? The rich get richer, the poor get more and more help, and us middle class 9-5ers get to pay for it all.
  • by retiree Location: lansiing on Jul 16, 2012 at 07:35 AM
    That's just wonderful for bridge card holders BUT I thought everything is touted about "fair share". How about offfering deals like this to EVERONE, especially the retirement persons? They are on fixed incomes with no pay increases. Come on now...
    • reply
      by stefanie on Jul 16, 2012 at 09:09 AM in reply to retiree
      what about the families that do not qualify for assistance and are just trying to make ends meet? the rich get richer and so do the poor with things like this!!! just wrong :-(
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