MountainWise receives $75,000 in grant money to
expand the Double Up Food Bucks Program.

Written by: Angela Mucci

MountainWise, a regional public health partnership, will use a $40,000 grant from Mission Health Community Investments and a $35,000 grant from the Community Foundation of Western NC to fund the expansion of the Double Up Food Bucks (DUFB) program. This funding will increase food security, improve access to fresh produce, and will also provide an economic boost for local stores, farmers’ markets and produce vendors. According to MountainWise Project Director, Sarah Tennyson: “The expansion of DUFB will essentially increase the amount of produce purchases by low-income shoppers in Haywood, Jackson, Buncombe and Transylvania Counties.”

DUFB is an incentive –based program  which offers the opportunity for customers to earn free produce when they use their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) to purchase produce items. The program will provide consumers with a dollar to dollar match when they make purchases at participating stores. For example, if a customer uses their SNAP dollars to buy $20 worth of produce such as apples, lettuce, or even some select frozen items, they will receive an additional $20 with which to purchase more produce items of their choice, up to $40 daily maximum at each location. Any earned but unused matching dollars will remain on customers’ site-specific DUFB account and will roll over for available use during future purchases within one year. DUFB will increase customers’ buying power at the grocery store, essentially doubling their SNAP/EBT dollars on produce purchases.

Additionally, MountainWise is working with Reinvestment Partners, a North Carolina based agency dedicated to creating economic equality. Due to Reinvestment Partners’ collaboration  with Food Lions Grocery Stores, DUFB consumers will enjoy an added benefit. Anyone who is enrolled in the MountainWise operated Diabetes Prevention Program will receive an extra $40  per month to use for produce purchases when shopping at Food Lions.

Bountiful Cities, a local non-profit, has been overseeing a DUFB pilot program in Asheville will work with MountainWise as they expand the project. MountainWise will use the grant money to ensure that two local grocers: the French Broad Food Co-op and West Village Market, will continue to offer the program upon completion of current funding sources. It will also provide funding for DUFB expansion to the following locations: Jarrett’s Brothers Grocery (Transylvania), Haywood Historic Farmers Market and Jackson County Farmers Market. Sites will use the money to provide matching benefits to qualifying customers for a total of one year.This expansion, which will increase accessibility and consumption of fresh produce, will also positively impact the local economy.

MountainWise will support all sites through additional advertising and creative marketing, educational tabling at site locations and other community events. Educational tabling will include not only information about the DUFB program, but also nutrition information, cooking demonstrations and recipes featuring available local produce, and in some cases the completion of new SNAP applications. MountainWise will also partner with additional local organizations to help spread the word through DHHS robo-calls to SNAP households, MANNA FoodBank pantry partner flyers and advertising, as well as referrals from programs serving low-income individuals.

Ultimately, MountainWise will use the grant money to increase food security in Western NC. Why is that important? According to a 2015 Community Health Assessment the following percentages of WNC county residents reported that it was “somewhat difficult or very difficult to access fresh produce at an affordable price:” Transylvania (32%), Haywood (23%), and Jackson (30%). Asheville has been named the ninth hungriest city in the nation, with 21.8% residents experiencing “food hardship” (Food Research and Action Center, 2013). These statistics correlate with elevated numbers of food insecurity in WNC. One out of every four children in WNC lives in a household with food insecurity, according to MANNA FoodBank.

The USDA defines food insecurity as a state in which “consistent access to adequate food is limited by a lack of money and other resources.” There is a positive direct correlation between unemployment and poverty rates with food insecurity (Map the Meal Gap, 2013). Residents in the eight westernmost counties of North Carolina experience a higher poverty rate (17.6%) than the state average (16.4%), as well as a high rate of difficulty accessing grocery stores (9.9%) (NCIOM), and are therefore at greater risk of food insecurity.

MountainWise Project Director Sarah Tennyson is passionate about this program, and about increasing food security in Western North Carolina: “We anticipate that anywhere between 400 – 550 new SNAP customers will access produce through the DUFB program, which will result in somewhere between 1,000 and 3,000 DUFB-assisted produce purchases over the course of this grant. Currently, the French Broad Food Co-op and West Village Market in Buncombe County are successfully implementing the DUFB pilot program. They have enrolled over 430 participants in the program & have generated over $11,993 in matching funds throughout the pilot project. The Double Up Food Bucks (DUFB) program has produced measurable results addressing food scarcity by increasing healthy food access and affordability. The collective efforts of various local organizations will result in an increase in numbers of people who have access to fresh fruits and vegetables.”

If you are a SNAP/EBT recipient who would like to participate in the program, contact Abby Holmes, DUFB Coordinator at (919)274-8838 or at abby@mountainwise.org

ABOUT MOUNTAINWISE
MountainWise works with the eight westernmost counties of North Carolina to provide access to local fresh fruits and vegetables, opportunities for physical activity, and access to services for chronic-disease management. By honoring traditions and embracing the natural resources of the mountains, MountainWise accomplishes its goal to make the healthy choice the easy choice and strengthens the health of all communities in Western North Carolina.

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