Editors Note: This article first appeared in the Traverse City Record Eagle on Saturday December 3, 2011.
During the holiday season we often think about food, and about giving.
These days, I’m thinking about local food, and local giving.
That’s because the Northwest Michigan Food & Farming Network is fundraising for a new program that helps financially struggling families purchase healthy, fresh fruits and vegetables and support the region’s farm economy. It’s called
Double Up Food Bucks.
|Double Up Food Bucks helps families buy more produce at farmers markets.|
If we’re successful, Double Up Food Bucks will raise $75,000 for families on the SNAP Bridge Card—food stamps—that they can spend on fruits and vegetables at area farmers markets over three years. And, because the program doubles the money families spend with their Bridge Card, they get even more fresh food, and the local farm economy receives $150,000.
But to make this happen we must raise $50,000 of the $75,000 locally.
We’re almost there. In eight months we’ve raised $36,000. The Utopia Foundation of Leelanau County is accepting donations for the Network and, crucially, providing a 25 percent match of donations received by Dec. 31. The final $25,000 will then come from the Fair Food Network, the national nonprofit in Ann Arbor that founded the program.
We raised enough money to launch the program in mid-August in six farmers markets and one farm market store in Benzie, Grand Traverse, Leelanau and Manistee counties. This in itself is a breakthrough sparked by Double Up: Previously, no local farmers market had the electronic machines needed to process Bridge Cards.
Here’s another sign of progress: The Sara Hardy Downtown Traverse City Market reports $11,348 in new revenue to farmers thanks to SNAP and Double Up.
“It is a success,” said Rob Bacigalupi, deputy director of the Traverse City Downtown Development Authority, which operates the market. “It clearly brought a lot of new customers to the market who were excited about this benefit.”
Michael Powers, program director of SEEDS, the nonprofit that manages the market for the Authority, said he met mothers of young children using the assistance; the elderly with family members helping them to shop; and people who’ve lost jobs in the recession.
Funding so far includes $10,000 from the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians; $5,000 each from United Way, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, and the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians; $2,000 from Fresh Food Partnership; nearly $1,300 from area restaurants; $250 each from Munson Medical Center and the Leelanau Farmers Market Association; and $195 from the Traverse City Coop Loop. Members of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation passed the plate one Sunday and gave nearly $500.
Maybe you’d like to pass the plate or make an individual donation. Learn how at www.foodandfarmingnetwork.org; just click on Double Up Food Bucks
Diane Conners directs the Healthy Food for All Program at the Michigan Land Use Institute, home of the Taste the Local Difference guide to regional farms. She chairs the health and youth networking group of the Food & Farming Network. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
NOTE: You can also support Double Up Food Bucks and see a great film on Tuesday, Dec. 13. Watch the award-winning movie “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead,” 7-9 p.m. at The Grand Traverse Circuit – 225 W. 14th Street, Traverse City, with donations accepted for Double Up Food Bucks Northwest Michigan. It’s sponsored by Shoreline Center for Healing, Oryana Natural Foods Market, Dr, Joel Roskamp from Burr Chiropractic & Wellness, and The Grand Traverse Circuit. Call 231-946-4325 for more information. Here’s a link to a flyer about the event so you can help spread the word. Thanks!