Fair Food Network (FFN) commits to piloting the successful 'Double Up Food Bucks' program with slight adjustments to incentive amounts in three independently-owned Detroit grocery stores between July 1, 2013 and December 31, 2014 to increase healthy food access for low-income families and strengthen the food economy in the region. A telephone town hall with 7,500 Detroiters in December 2012 revealed that the biggest obstacles facing low-income consumers in feeding their families healthful food are cost (58%) and lack of transportation to healthy food retail (22%). Focusing on locally-owned grocery stores that source Michigan produce and bringing healthy food incentives to Detroit residents, this pilot will advance a regional, sustainable solution for transforming Detroit's food system. The Incentives for Healthy SNAP Purchases in Grocery Stores project is the first of its kind in the nation, applying the successful DUFB model to make available and promote affordable, healthful food to low-income residents where they most frequently shop for groceries.
This community investment will contribute to improving public health and economic health by supporting local farmers and distributors. Because of the differences between farmers' markets and grocery stores at point of sale, FFN is developing an electronic solution that will work across multiple point-of-sale platforms. The pilot will begin with a temporary solution - using gift cards - but FFN intends to have a more permanent solution in place before the end of the first four-month stage. Furthermore, a successful pilot will position FFN to replicate the program nationwide should federal funding for healthy food incentives become available, something that the Local Food, Farms, and Jobs Act announced on April 9, 2013 indicates may soon be a possibility.
To implement this commitment, FFN will partner with local store owners, community organizations, Michigan Department of Human Services, and USDA, with funding from private and community foundations. The three stores selected for the pilot are: Honey Bee Market, Metro Foodland, and Mike's Fresh Market. FFN selected markets by location (intentionally including three disparate neighborhoods), interest, and management ability to support pilot. USDA Food & Nutrition Service has approved the selected stores and provided the waiver necessary to conduct the pilot. Communications and social marketing to SNAP participants are key to the pilot's success. FFN will work with the Department of Human Services to direct mail SNAP beneficiaries about healthful food choices at their local groceries and with local organizations to post information and hold in-store sign-up days. This approach has proven to be highly successful with SNAP beneficiaries at farmers' markets.
Since 2009, FFN has played a catalytic role in growing a more sustainable food system by creating replicable community-based models and informing public policy. FFN's expertise is founded on decades of work in farming, food production, marketing, research, education, and community development. The highly successful DUFB program has garnered positive press, several awards, and attention from national policymakers.
-Finalize plans for implementation of pilot program
-Conduct trainings with store staff from each participating store
-Develop evaluation protocol specific to Grocery Store Project
-Develop community outreach communications materials specific to Grocery Store Project
-Attend Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Funders Forum to inform and engage additional foundations.
-Launch Double Up Food Bucks Grocery Store Project at participating stores
-Hold in-store promotional events to inform community members, customers of program
-Launch communications plan, to include direct mail, radio, and media outreach, as well as outreach through community events and networks
July - October 2013
-Continue outreach and communications to targeted communities
-Collect evaluation data on program usage
-Make adjustments to pilot implementation as needed
- Fundraising continues with proposals to Foundations in Michigan and nationally
October - December 2013
-Analyze evaluation data
January - June 2014
-Make program adjustments as needed, including potential improvements in register technology to automate allocation of incentive dollars
-Offer shared learning opportunities for participants
-Engage with USDA to discuss matching funding if authorized in Farm Bill
-Convene policy stakeholders and national foundation leaders to share results
July - October 2014
-Resume Double Up Food Bucks Grocery Store project at same stores and at least 11new sites
-Continue collecting evaluation data
October - December 2014
-Offer shared learning opportunities for participants
-Analyze and report evaluation data to inform public policy
There are 1.8 million Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients in Michigan, about 18% of the state's population and over the 15% national average. In FY 2012, SNAP benefits in Michigan totaled almost $3 billion, and in February 2013 alone, SNAP disbursements in Michigan were over $241 million. USDA reports that SNAP sales at Michigan farmers' markets grew from $16,000 in 2007 to $1.5 million in 2012, and one-third of Michigan farmers' markets now accept SNAP benefits.
The 'Double Up Food Bucks' (DUFB) program was piloted in five locations around Detroit in 2009 and is now in more than 75 locations state-wide. When a SNAP recipient spends benefits at a participating market, the expenditures are matched 1:1, up to $20 per market day, with tokens that can be spent on Michigan-grown fruits and vegetables. Supported by over 40 foundations, DUFB has resulted in over $3 million dollars of local produce being sold in farmers' markets, simultaneously improving the nutritional status of low-income consumers and growing the local farm economy.
Between June and December 2012, the 90,000 customers using SNAP benefits at participating DUFB markets provided a boost in income for hundreds of participating farmers. Approximately 700 farmers sold $1.9 million in combined DUFB and SNAP dollars, and with the accepted economic multiplier of 1.7, this generated $3.23 million for the Michigan economy.
Recent evaluation data show that 96% of customers would participate in the program again and would like to see it offered in more locations. A recent telephone town hall survey showed that 84% of over 500 respondents purchase the majority of their food in a grocery store. Implementing DUFB in local grocery stores will reach more low-income shoppers, improving their nutritional status and bringing even more dollars into the local economy.