On May 4th Cheshire County Conservation District launches Double Up Veggie Bucks at the Farmers’ Market of Keene. Double Up Veggie Bucks will help community members who use federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits (SNAP) to buy more farm-fresh food, while supporting local businesses who sell at The Farmers Market of Keene, one of the oldest, largest, and most diverse grower-only farmers markets in NH. Not only can consumers use their debit and credit cards at the Market Booth, but residents who qualify for federal nutrition assistance can shop at the market using their benefits card, and double their purchasing power up to an extra $10 per market day.
Food insecurity, when people do not know where their next meal is coming from, is currently a large issue in America with one in ten or 7,700 people here in Cheshire County living below the poverty line, most of whom are seniors or families with small children. The fresh food that preserves our health is generally more expensive than processed food, but Double Up Veggie Bucks aims to change that by making farm-fresh, local and often organic food produced by Cheshire County farmers accessible and affordable. In an effort to raise awareness that federal nutrition benefits can be used to buy vegetable plants, volunteers will be on hand during the market’s opening day to provide free pots, potting soil and growing advice to anyone who uses an EBT, credit or debit card at the Market Booth to purchase fruit or vegetable plants to grow their own fresh food.
The new partnership has the potential not only to increase healthy food access for area residents, but also to boost the local economy. Recent surveys from Wholesome Wave’s partner farmers markets and 2,300 participating farmers dramatically illustrated the difference for farmers: over 70 percent of farmers reported that they experienced increased sales as a result of programs similar to Double Up Veggie Bucks, for an estimated total increase of $1.89 million in revenue among participating farmers nationwide in 2011. And it’s not just the farmers who benefit: 30 percent of these consumers said they planned to spend an average of $28 at nearby businesses on market day. The market’s central location in Keene is already an economic boon to Main St, and Double Up Veggie Bucks could improve that.
“We’re very excited about the new program. Bringing Double Up Veggie Bucks to our market will make it easier for our community members to buy healthy fresh fruits and veggies for themselves and their families. We think people are going to love it!” said Kelly Wilson, Manager of Keene Farmers Market.
“Plus the money goes supports our local farmers through direct sales. Keeping this money within the community is great for everyone, and thriving local farms contribute to the preservation of natural resources in our region. It is a win-win situation all around,” said Emerald Levick, Double Up Veggie Bucks Coordinator.
This program is the result of a partnership with Wholesome Wave, a national nonprofit working to improve access to fresh, locally grown foods in underserved communities, a USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant and generous donations from community members.