Ten years ago in Detroit, a program to help provide healthy and affordable food was introduced to five farmer’s markets. The Fair Food Network’s Double Up Food Bucks program was designed with the goal to help low-income consumers and local farmers while also keeping money circulating within the local economy. Ten years later, the program is active in 24 states across the nation.
The Flagstaff Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) & Local Market became the first grocery store in Arizona to accept the Double Up program, managed by Pinnacle Prevention, in September. Earlier, in May, Flagstaff CSA received Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) eligibility. The Double Up program is meant to benefit those who use SNAP, previously known as food stamps.
Pinnacle Prevention is a nonprofit organization founded in 2014. Kelly Villa, farm-to-form manager at Pinnacle Prevention, wrote in an email that Pinnacle Prevention launched the Arizona Double Up Food Bucks program in 2016, which is modeled after the Fair Food Network's original Double Up program. She said SNAP customers can earn up to $20 in Double Up tokens per day.
“We have a variety of funding partners, including multi-year funding from the USDA under the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) Grant Program,” Villa said. “We were also recently awarded state funding from the Arizona Department of Economic Security to expand the Double Up Food Bucks program into more counties and high-need areas in Arizona.”
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the program is meant to help SNAP recipients purchase healthy, high-quality food at affordable prices from local farms, which ultimately keeps money flowing within the local economy.
“[Double Up Food Bucks] is really like a win-win-win,” Flagstaff CSA owner Genevieve Perkins said. “The program is only directed toward local produce. That directly benefits those farmers and the state economy, and then it helps support local residents who receive SNAP to have more choices and more to spend each month.”
Since its introduction in late September, Flagstaff CSA has had about 40 Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) purchases. EBT is an electronic funds system that allows the recipient to transfer government benefits from a federal account to purchase products. According to Villa’s email, $362 SNAP dollars have been spent and $230 Double Up tokens have been redeemed at Flagstaff CSA since September 2018.
“We don’t have anything that isn’t eligible for EBT,” Perkins said. “We would match [the money spent with EBT] with these little [tokens] for you to take home that don’t expire. When you bring them back, you can spend them, but you can only spend them on local Arizona produce.”
Flagstaff CSA has three seasons, or shares, spanning approximately four months each. Currently, it is in its winter share, which lasts from Oct. 25 thru Feb. 21.
Throughout each season, customers can sign up for full or half shares. Flagstaff CSA cashier Nina Porter said full-share members receive a weekly order of 7-9 items and half-share members receive the same amount but on a biweekly basis. Customers do not have to sign up for full or half shares, and they don’t need to be a SNAP recipient to shop.
“The Double Up Food Bucks program has been increasingly used at farmer’s markets around [Arizona] over the last couple years, but this is sort of a trial run for the program in a grocery store,” Porter said.
Perkins said it is important for those on SNAP to know they are eligible to receive Double Up Food Bucks.
Flagstaff CSA is located at 116 W. Cottage Ave. and is open seven days a week.