A safety net program designed to increase access to fresh fruits and vegetables for metro residents receiving food assistance is expanding in northeast Johnson County.
Double Up Food Bucks, which is administered locally through the Mid-America Regional Council, is in the process of expanding into all area Price Chopper stores. Double Up Food Bucks allows people in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to use their electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards to earn credit for additional fresh produce when they spend their benefit money on locally grown fruits and vegetables. For every dollar EBT users spend on locally grown produce, they earn a dollar in credit that can be spent on any fresh fruit or vegetable.
“The main reason is that we all know that healthier foods can be more expensive,” said Donna Martin, MARC’s public health planner. “When someone who is a SNAP beneficiary is trying to budget, sometimes it’s easier to buy things that are more processed because they are cheaper. We’re trying to increase access greatly to produce, because we have seen that people really do want to be able to buy fresh fruits and vegetables. It’s just a budgeting issue.”
The program was piloted at a handful of Ball’s Price Choppers last year, including the location at 75th Street and Metcalf, but will be expanding to all metro Price Choppers for 2017 staring in early June.
The program also has a presence at a number of metro farmers markets, including the downtown Overland Park Farmers Market, and the Mission Farm and Flower Market, which holds its opening for the season this Saturday. Farmers market shoppers can use their EBT cards to get tokens for use as the stalls. For every 10 tokens they get that can be used for any SNAP eligible food, they get an additional 10 tokens that can be used for fruits and vegetables only.
“The program has three main goals: increasing access to produce, increasing business for local farmers, and strengthening the local economy, because when you spend money with local producers, it recirculates throughout the community,” Martin said.
The Price Chopper locations at 87th Street and Antioch in Overland Park and on Roe Boulevard in Roeland Park are both preparing to start hosting the program. The city of Roeland Park recently sent out information about how residents can take advantage of the program.