Due to the partial federal government shutdown, SNAP recipients have been in jeopardy of not receiving February’s benefits as deposits onto their EBT Cards. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) — SNAP’s funding agency — offered states a plan to ensure that SNAP beneficiaries received their benefits for the month of February without interruption, and without causing hardship to recipients, their families, or the retailers that rely on these sales to support their businesses.
The USDA offered states the option to receive an early payment for SNAP benefits, and New Mexico accepted this offer. New Mexicans who utilize the SNAP program will receive their SNAP assistance early (before January 20th). These may look like double payments to some beneficiaries, but they are February’s payments. The New Mexico Human Services Department has not indicated how they plan on handling new SNAP applicants in February.
Double Up Food Bucks will continue to operate as normal. Customers who make SNAP/EBT transactions will continue to receive the Double Up Food Bucks incentive, as long as they are using their EBT card and purchasing eligible produce. Keep in mind, however, that a customer must have funds on their card to make a SNAP transaction in order for the Double Up incentive to take place, so if funds are depleted from the EBT card, a customer will not receive the Double Up Food Bucks incentive. However, if a customer already has farmers’ market silver Double Up Food Bucks tokens, the tokens will be honored as usual at the farmers’ market from which the tokens were received.
For more information about the government shutdown and how it impacts the Double Up Food Bucks program, contact Program Manager Sarah Lucero.
The SNAP incentive program Double Up Food Bucks began at New Mexico farmers’ markets and farm stands in 2015 as a way to help low-income families bring home more healthy food, support area farmers, and stimulate local economies. It was pioneered by the New Mexico Farmers’ Marketing Association in 2010.
Double Up Food Bucks matches SNAP dollars spent on fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables. Developed by national nonprofit Fair Food nNetwork, the Double Up model is now active in more than 20 states across the country. (SNAP stands for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program formerly known as food stamps.)
USDA Award: In 2016, USDA awarded the New Mexico Farmers’ Marketing Association a $2 million Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) grant to expand Double Up Food Bucks statewide. The federal funds were matched by resources from more than 35 local funders for a total program budget of $3.5 million dollars. With this support, Double Up is expanding to serve residents in even more markets, farm stands, and grocery stores in communities across New Mexico.
To read how Double Up Food Bucks has helped New Mexico, download the Double Up Food Bucks 2016 New Mexico Report here.
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Lowe’s grocery stores are giving shoppers in Albuquerque and Santa Fe some motivation to eat locally grown fruits and veggies.
The new program called “double up food bucks” kicked off Wednesday.
The dollar-for-dollar match allows shoppers to use their snap benefits to buy fresh New Mexico-grown produce for half the price, spending up to $25 each visit.
“Our family of New Mexicans, they get to eat healthier, better fresh local produce, and the farmers have somewhere to distribute their crops, we’ve committed to the farmers, we’ve committed to the community and this is going to be a year-round program,” said Michael Venticinque, a Lowes produce supervisor.
The program is available at the Fourth Street location in Albuquerque and the “Food King” location in Santa Fe.
Food King and Lowe’s grocery stores are giving shoppers in Santa Fe and Albuquerque new motivation to eat more locally grown fruits and vegetables this season.
Shoppers who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) can now receive dollar-for-dollar match—up to $25 per visit—when they purchase New Mexico-grown fresh fruits and vegetables at participating locations. This means, for example, that SNAP customers who bring $20 worth of qualifying produce to the cash register are only charged $10 to their electronic benefits transfer (EBT) card.
On Wednesday (April 26), when the program rolls out, a representative from Roadrunner Food Bank will be on hand at the Albuquerque 4th Street store to help shoppers sign up for the federal SNAP program.
“Lowe’s is a family-owned grocery business with 22 stores in New Mexico,” says Rob Ybarra, Director of Produce for the Littlefield, Texas-based company. “We’re committed to offering our customers fresh, healthy food at the best-possible prices, and Double Up Food Bucks will help us do that.”
The Double Up Food Bucks program is administered by the New Mexico Farmers’ Marketing Association at 80+ locations across the state, including farmers’ markets, farm stands, and select grocery stores.
Shoppers can visit Food King in Santa Fe located at 1700 St. Michael’s Drive from 7:00AM to 10PM and the Lowe’s 4th Street location in Albuquerque from 7:30AM to 9:00PM.
KTEL Telemundo Albuquerque is currently airing our newest television commercial, which helps get the word out about the Double Up Food Bucks program. Double Up Food Bucks allows SNAP recipients to get more fruits and vegetables when they spend their SNAP EBT Card dollars at participating outlets. For example, spend $10 from your SNAP EBT Card at a participating outlet and you get another $10 to buy fresh fruits and veggies grown in New Mexico. If you spend $26 from your SNAP EBT Card, you get another $26 for fresh New Mexico-grown fruits and vegetables. It’s that easy!
LAS CRUCES – Since Las Cruces resident Karen Acosta-Lombino, 45, a mother of three, began buying produce at the Las Cruces Farmers & Crafts Market through the Double Up Food Bucks program, her family has started eating more fruits and vegetables.
“There’s always fruit in the fridge now and now I cook with fresh vegetables instead of buying them frozen,” Acosta-Lombino said.
Acosta-Lombino said she tries to visit the farmers market in downtown Las Cruces to stock up on produce every Saturday.
“If I know I’m going to go (to the farmers market), I prepare meals and everything all around fresh fruits and vegetables I know are going to be there,” she said.
Double Up is a SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) or food stamp incentive program that allows recipients to increase their purchase of fresh, locally grown produce when they shop at participating farmers markets.
“At the farmers market, what the customer does is go to the information table and swipe their EBT (Electronic Benefit Transfer) card and get two for one,” said Denise Miller, executive director of the New Mexico Farmers’ Marketing Association. “So if they take $20 dollars off their EBT card, they get wooden tokens for their EBT card and then they are matched with $20 dollars worth of metal tokens and those are only good for fruits and vegetables.”
The program also benefits local farmers, Miller said.
“In New Mexico we geared this program so that it is to be used for New Mexico-grown produce, so it has the double benefit of serving our farmers as well as the people who need to stretch their food budget,” she said. “… These are dollars that are going straight into the pockets of farmers and that money is getting recirculated into our community — a really important part of why we want to keep these SNAP dollars being spent on locally grown food.”
In 2015, 580 food producers, including 475 fruit and vegetable farmers participated in Double Up statewide, according to Miller.
New Mexico received $2.1 million in federal money in April to expand Double Up and the state Legislature has granted an additional $390,300 annually, making it the first state to provide matching funds for such a program, according to a news release.
The funding has allowed Double Up to expand from the 34 markets that participated in the program in 2015 to nearly 90 sites throughout the state, including farmers markets, grocery stores, farm stands, mobile markets and Community Supported Agriculture outlets, according to Miller.
Double Up launched in New Mexico in 2010 at 16 participating farmers markets and has grown over the years. In 2016, the program is projected to impact 25,000 SNAP shoppers and 800 small farms in the state, stimulating an average of $1.2 million annually in local food sales, according to the news release.
One of the new Double Up sites will include La Semilla Food Center’s Farm Fresh Mobile Farmers Market, a 12-foot school bus converted into a market on wheels with shelving for items including meats, dairy products, honey and fruits and vegetables. The mobile unit will make stops at eight different locations in the area, mobile market coordinator Alejandro Bernal said.
“A lot of the areas that we’re going to be located are underserved areas … so we hope (customers) have SNAP benefits so they can use Double Up Food Bucks,” Bernal said.
At the mobile markets and participating grocery stores and farm stands, cashiers automatically provide SNAP customers with Double Up Food Bucks when a SNAP eligible purchase is made, Miller said.
Vendors selling locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables at the Las Cruces market will also continue to participate in the program.
In 2015, vendors at the Las Cruces market redeemed $13,601 in SNAP benefits and $11,212 in Double Up Food Bucks, according to market board member Brenda Mosely.
“With the income level for Doña Ana County being low and the fact that people can double the amount of money they are receiving, (the program) is a big help and it helps the farmers and the people who can accept EBT cards,” Mosely said.
Living in poverty
According to New Mexico Voices for Children, 21 percent of the total population and 30 percent of the state’s children live at or below the federal poverty level, placing New Mexico as second highest in overall poverty and highest in child poverty nationwide.
Low-income families are less likely to spend money on more expensive food items, such as lean meats, dairy and fresh produce and more likely to spend money on cheaper and more satiating foods containing processed grains and added sugar and fats. This puts these families at risk for obesity and chronic conditions like diabetes and cardiovascular illness, according to the report.
In New Mexico, only 18 percent of adults and 21 percent of children and teens eat the recommended five or more fruit and vegetable servings per day, according to the report.
“Fruits and vegetables can be expensive, but they are nutrient dense, so it’s really important to help people stretch their budgets to buy healthy food,” Miller said.
In Doña Ana County, an estimated 993 SNAP participants used the Double Up Food Bucks program in 2015, according to Miller.
“I think it helps out our community as a whole,” Acosta-Lombino said. “It’s helping the farmers and just eating fresh, local fruits and vegetables, you know where they’re coming from and you get to know the people even just walking through the farmers’ market. You get to see all the things you never knew were there.”
Anyone receiving SNAP benefits is automatically eligible for the program. For information about the Double Up Food Bucks program and how it works, visit doubleupfoodbucks.org. For information about SNAP, visit fns.usda.gov/snap.
One of Taos’ greatest assets is its deep agricultural tradition. But organic, healthy, local food can sometimes be pricey, especially for low-income families on tight budgets and with limited time to shop around.
A growing program, Double Up Food Bucks, empowers people on food assistance to buy more New Mexico-grown produce by doubling their buying power at participating farmers markets and stores. And it’s making big moves in Taos.
If people buy $10 worth of SNAP-eligible (Supplement Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps) food with their EBT cards at a farmers market or participating store, they get $10 more to buy fresh fruits and vegetables grown in New Mexico. If people spend $20 on SNAP-eligible food, they get $20 more for fruits and veggies.
The whole program is designed to make the experience as user-friendly as possible, said Lucy McDermott, program specialist with the New Mexico Farmers Marketing Association (NMFMA).
When someone uses their EBT card at the farmers market, they get wooden tokens that can be used with most market vendors. With Double Up, they get double the tokens. At stores, the Double Up money is tabulated over the EBT card system.
Taos is a hot spot for the program among locations in New Mexico. In addition to the Taos Farmers Market, Double Up can be used at the Red Willow Market at Taos Pueblo, Back Porch Farmers Market, Cid’s Food Market, Taos Market and Taos Food Co-op.
The program doubles the buying power of low-income folks and also serves to bolster the region’s agricultural economy by increasing the sales of local farmers.
Josh Cunningham, marketing director for Cid’s Food Market, told The Taos News that Taos County has been the “epicenter of a local agricultural renaissance” over the past few decades. And with so many local farmers throughout Northern New Mexico, Taos is fast approaching the time of year when people can get the most mileage out of the program.
“When the end of July comes around, we’ll have boxes of green chile and all the local produce. Double Up Food Bucks is running all year, but come in now,” he said.
Across New Mexico, the program is also growing substantially. According to McDermott, the program was used at 33 locations last year. So far in 2016, there’s 87.
NMFMA is aggressively trying to make the program adapt to the infrastructure already available in communities. “Our interest is in accessibility for the consumer and supporting local farmers. We’re getting greater access for shopping hours,” McDermott said.
Cid’s launched Double Up at the beginning of June, Cunningham said. Setting up the program “involved some technical mojo” and assistance from La Montañita Co-op, which shares the same point-of-sale software. “We spent about a month getting the technical end ready and waiting to see what sort of bugs they have in their system,” he said.
Because not all of Cid’s produce counts for the Double Up program, the store has also started labeling eligible New Mexico-grown produce with the Double Up logo.
So far, it seems to have been a success. “Everyone’s really excited about it,” Cunningham said, though he couldn’t offer specific sales figures.
“It’s helping the farmers, helping customers who are low income put food on their plates and [attracting] people who don’t normally shop here,” he said. “It’s great seeing people using Double Up to its fullest extent.”
Numbers haven’t been tallied for the Taos Farmers Market yet, but Chris Lee, who owns Llanobilly Farm and works for the market, said the program has seen rapid success.
The market saw a 324 percent increase in SNAP/Double Up sales from 2014 to 2015. There were 154 new customers who used their EBT cards at the market last year, while 66 new customers have already started using their EBT cards at the market this year.
SNAP sales stand at about 6 percent of all vendor sales at the Taos Farmers Market, which is the fourth-largest farmers market in the state in terms of gross sales, Lee said.
Taos County has about 6,500 SNAP participants, or about 19 percent of the population, Lee said.
Lee told The Taos News the Taos Farmers Market is blasting the area with radio ads and putting up signs around town in order to get the word out. And Cid’s is handing out informational postcards and 10-page packets explaining the program.
The expansion of Double Up is thanks largely to a $2 million grant from the federal government, which was announced in June. The grant will be spent over four years and comes from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive program, according to the NMFMA.
Furthermore, the New Mexico Legislature will contribute $390,300 a year for the next four years, NMFMA said. Double Up started in Michigan with the Fair Food Network.
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A public-private program is making it possible for those struggling to make ends meet to access fresh produce while supporting small businesses and local growers.
The New Mexico Farmers’ Marketing Association Wednesday announced it received $2.1 million in federal money to expand its Double Up Food Bucks healthy food incentive program over the next four years. The program also has received money from various foundations in the state.
Double Up increases the value of SNAP benefits when used for New Mexico-grown produce. SNAP stands for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps.
“Double Up is an innovative public-private partnership that leverages federal and state funds to bolster families’ purchasing power for needed fruits and vegetables,” U.S. Representative Michelle Lujan Grisham said in a news release on the grant. “This program ensures that families have access to affordable and nutritious foods while also creating economic opportunities for New Mexico producers.”
Funding comes from the USDA, but New Mexico provided an additional $390,300 annually, marking the first time a state legislature provided matching funds for such incentives.
Funds will be used to expand Double Up to nearly 90 sites across the state, including 50 farmers’ markets, grocery stores, farm stands, mobile markets, and community supported agriculture outlets. In 2016 Double Up, is projected to stimulate an average of $1.2 million annually in local food sales.