One in eight Oregonians is food insecure. These families can’t afford all the food they need, and don’t always know where their next meal will come from. More than 600,000 Oregonians depend on SNAP (formerly food stamps) to put food on their tables each month, and more than one-third of those SNAP recipients are children. At Portland area farmers markets we meet these families every week.
SNAP works to feed hungry people, but it works even better when paired with incentives that allow low-income families to bring home more fruits and vegetables. The Double Up Food Bucks program gives SNAP participants fresh fruits and vegetables they may not otherwise be able to afford. For every dollar spent on SNAP-eligible foods at participating farmers markets, SNAP participants receive an additional dollar to spend on Oregon-grown fruits and veggies.
For more than 10 years, farmers markets in the metro area have raised funds from local businesses, foundations and federal grants to assure that Double Up Food Bucks can deliver extra fruits and vegetables to thousands of families experiencing hunger. Each week at dozens of farmers markets SNAP participants enjoy purchasing fresh produce in a safe, friendly, community gathering space and the opportunity to meet the people who grow their food. Farmers get to share their stories and build relationships with their shoppers.
We survey our shoppers and have heard heartwarming statements about how eating more fruits and veggies has improved that person’s health and how having more fresh food around the house means their children are eating less “junk food.” Our SNAP shoppers are so grateful for the extra dollars and farmers markets are so grateful for being able to share the bountiful harvest of our area with them.
Double Up Food Bucks currently exists at only 60 of Oregon’s 120 farmers markets and many rural markets are without any SNAP matching program at all. In Salem, right now, Senate Bill 727A will fund expansion of this successful program to all farmers markets in Oregon, as well as many farms share sites and several rural grocery stores. We know it works, why not expand the program to more low income shoppers and more outlets for local produce?
Double Up is a triple win: low-income Oregonians bring home more fresh produce, family farmers get a financial boost, and local economies thrive. Senate Bill 727A keeps Oregonians healthy and supports local agriculture. Please contact your local state senators and representatives and ask them to support SB 727A. Visit doubleuporegon.org to learn more, and to get involved.
Trudy Toliver, Executive Director
Farmers Market Fund & Portland Farmers Market
Photo credit: Benjamin Pitt