One in five people in Lane County qualifies for food stamps. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, bases eligibility on monthly income and provides vouchers or an electronic benefits transfer card to buy food items. To make money stretch each month, families often end up consuming cheaper, less nutritious foods. As KLCC's Tiffany Eckert reports, a program at the Lane County Farmer's Market is designed to change that.
Under the information tent at Lane County Farmer’s Market in downtown Eugene, a SNAP participant swipes a card. She taps in an amount and the market manager hands her 10 tokens. Next, she receives paper coupons valued at ten more dollars. Tia Limoges just doubled her spending power with the “Double Up For Food Bucks” program. And she’s not alone. Since the program started in July, the Farmer’s Market has welcomed more than 600 new SNAP shoppers. Limoges comes here every week to buy fresh produce for her 87 year old mom.
“It’s super important because otherwise she’d be eating canned for frozen vegetables.”
A diet of nutrient rich foods is a crucial component in a healthy life. Dr. Patrick Luedtke knows this. He’s Senior Public Health Officer for Lane County. Most of the patients he sees are low-income. Obesity, says Luedtke, is the number one chronic health problem.
“I was trained in the 1980’s I never saw a diabetic kid with type 2 diabetes at age five and now I see them regularly.”
Danielle Hummel stands behind a colorful bounty of fresh fruits and veggies grown at Horton Road Organics Farm. She fills bags of produce for shoppers who pay with tokens and double bucks.
Lists: “today we have…lots of greens, salad mix, head lettuce, herbs, cilantro, parsley, and a lot of storage crops, carrots, potatoes, beets, onions…”
Hummel says she recognizes repeat customers since the program started.
Until very recently, the Double Up Food Bucks program was at risk of ending. A $35,000 grant from Trillium Community Health Plan will extend the program until the Farmer’s Market wraps up this winter.
Karen Dunne is with the Willamette Farm and Food Coalition, the non-profit arm of this farmer’s market. She says there is a strong focus here on sustainability.
“The program really will rely on broad based community support. And so because of the funds that will now enable us to get through the end of the year, we can turn out attention to raising money for next year."
Dunne is hoping to get smaller, rural markets on board with the Double Up Food Bucks Program.