Nutrition incentive programs can help people living on low incomes purchase fresh fruits and vegetables. The Double Up Food Bucks program lets Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients use their benefits and receive a matching value on dollars spent on fresh produce at participating farmers markets, mobile markets, and corner stores.
For instance, a family that spends $10 in SNAP benefits with a participating vendor receives an additional $10 in Double Up Food Bucks to purchase locally grown fruits and vegetables. In addition to helping families living on low incomes purchase more fruits and vegetables, the program supports local farmers and local economies.
In 2014, Field & Fork Network began administering the Double Up Food Bucks programs at seven markets in Western New York. The following year, NYHealth made its first grant to Field & Fork to support the spread of the program across the State. Field & Fork Network offers Double Up Food Bucks at various outlets—including farmers markets, mobile markets, and small retail and grocery sites—across urban, suburban, and rural communities. Using SNAP enrollment and health outcomes as key indicators, Field & Fork Network works in communities that reflect the greatest need and where Double Up Food Bucks will have the greatest impact. NYHealth continued to support its ongoing expansion to other regions of the State, with grants in 2017, 2018, and 2021.
Despite the crucial role they play in connecting people to healthier foods, nutrition programs are under-enrolled. Field & Fork collaborated with community organizations to help enroll residents in Double Up Food Bucks, many of whom weren’t aware they were eligible for SNAP. On the vendor side, Field & Fork connected with both existing Double Up Food Bucks farmers markets and new sites to ensure they had the tools and technology to successfully operate the program as well as address customer questions and needs.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020, it had a particularly devastating effect on New York State, including exacerbating food insecurity and inequities among many New Yorkers. In fall 2020, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) notified Field & Fork that it could qualify for an additional $750,000 in funding—but it would need to find matching funds for any federal amount and with only a 48-hour window to do so. NYHealth became the first funder to support this effort, and then worked quickly to connect Field & Fork with other funders across the State. Within the 48-hour deadline, a coalition of funders committed to nearly the full amount—collectively channeling $1.5 million of support to hungry New Yorkers.
Over the course of 2020, despite the lockdown, Field & Fork worked to add Double Up Food Bucks at 12 new sites at grocery stores, farmers markets, and small retail and mobile markets, representing 16,000 new users.
As a result of Field & Fork’s efforts, a total of 32 New York counties are now participating in Double Up Food Bucks, giving more families living on low incomes better access to healthy, local food. To date, 42,000 New Yorkers and more than 200 farmers markets, mobile markets, and farm stands have participated. The dollars involved are equally impressive: $4.9 million in SNAP & Double Up Food Bucks dollars have been spent in New York State since 2015.
Field & Fork has also been successful in securing additional USDA matching support through 2024 and, for the first time, a $2 million annual appropriation from the State in 2022 to expand the program. Through this leveraged funding, Field & Fork anticipates reaching approximately 140,000 new SNAP recipients in 45 counties in New York State and distributing $4.3 million in produce.