The American Farmland Trust’s Farmers Market Celebration is raising awareness about the importance of farmers markets to growers and communities across the country, and we’re taking part in it all summer long. Our focus over the next few weeks is on farmers markets and the people that go above and beyond in bringing healthy food to neighborhoods that need it the most. Many farmers markets assist low-income neighbors, work with vulnerable seniors, donate food to local food banks, or accept federal food and nutrition program benefits.

Farmers markets act as crucial points of access for healthy food in underserved areas, both in Arizona and across the country. These markets bring fresh produce and nutritious options to communities, and programs like Double Up Food Bucks help customers bring home even more healthy food.

This increased access to nutritious food options is especially beneficial to thousands of low-income families in our state. Food insecurity, or the lack of reliable access to nutritious food, affects 15.8 percent of Arizonans, and 24 percent of Arizona children, according Map the Meal Gap’s 2017 food insecurity report. This makes Arizona the state with the fifth-highest national food insecurity rate for children.

When farmers markets accept SNAP (formerly food stamps) and participate in Double Up Food Bucks, the incredible benefits of fresh, local produce are made available to everyone in a community.

Double Up Food Bucks was launched by the Fair Food Network in 2009 as a six-week pilot program in five Detroit farmers markets. Since then, the organization has grown tremendously and seen success across the nation. Currently, Double Up Food Bucks programs are available in 23 states.

The Double Up AZ program doubles the value of SNAP benefits used at participating farmers markets and grocery stores, helping people bring home more healthy fruits and vegetables while supporting local farmers. For every $1 spent on SNAP-eligible food items, customers get $1 back to spend on locally-grown fruits and veggies, up to $20 per day in Arizona. With an extra $20 to spend on fresh fruits and veggies, many low-income families can afford to put more healthy meals on the table.

In the United States, there are over 8,600 farmers markets, and as of 2016, nearly 7,000 are authorized to accept federal nutrition benefits like SNAP. In Michigan, where the program began, 63 percent of Double Up customers have low food security. That means the program is successfully helping to bring healthy food to those who need it the most.

SNAP recipients shop more often and eat more produce when Double Up is in place – farmers market shoppers who buy produce six or more times per month has increased by 97 percent since Michigan’s Double Up program was introduced. Michigan families have brought home 5.3 million pounds of healthy food with SNAP since the program started in 2009.

Currently in Arizona, Double Up Food Bucks is available at 19 farmers markets, four farm stands, and 40 Fresh Express Mobile Market sites across the state. These markets are doubling up on their efforts to bring healthy options to everyone in their communities.

Check out our blog next week to learn more about farmers markets, the people, and programs that go above and beyond when it comes to bringing healthy food to all Arizonans.

Does your favorite market or farmer assist low-income neighbors, work with vulnerable seniors, donate food to local food banks or accept federal food and nutrition program benefits? We want to share your stories! Email Stacey your story using the subject line “Healthy Food for All,” or message us on Facebook to tell us more.

“The quest for food security can be the common thread that links the different challenges we face and helps build a sustainable future.”
– José Graziano da Silva, United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Director-General