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 http://doubleupfoodbucks.org/markets
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.