A lot of residents in Madison County like going to their farmers markets to support and buy local, and with the help of the Double Dollars program, access to market goods are made easily available to those using federal food programs such as SNAP, WIC and Senior nutrition benefits.
"Essentially, the program allows folks who are eligible for federal nutrition funds to leverage those dollars and get double the buying power at an enrolled farmers market," Sean Southard, director of communications at the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, said. "It's important that we think of innovative ways to make sure that folks have access to fresh, nutritious and affordable Kentucky Proud foods."
For those that are using EBT, Double Dollars allows recipients to receive an additional $20 in bonus tokens after spending $20 of their own monies.
Participants can receive up to additional $12 in tokens for fruit and veggies each day and an additional $8 in tokens for meat and dairy after spending $20.
"The Double Dollars program has seen great success in reaching Kentucky families and farmers it's designed to reach," said Martin Richards, Community Farm Alliance executive director, in a press release. "In previous years, we've seen that 25% of the population is coming out and benefiting from these programs, and that number grows each year. If we can continue to provide access to healthy, locally grown fruits and vegetables for families and provide direct economic support for our hard-working farming communities, then this program will continue to make an impact that matters."
Women who are pregnant, postpartum or breastfeeding infants up to age 5 are also eligible for a Double Dollars program in which they can receive up to $8 a day or $28 a year in vouchers for vegetables and fruits from the county health department. With the vouchers, mothers are able to redeem them at participating farmers markets to be doubled.
According to Southard, there are currently 41 Double Dollar markets, including the two in Madison County, with around 160 farmers' markets in the state.
The program has existed in some form since 2013, but became offered statewide in 2017, according to Maggie Smith, communications director for CFA.
She reported that in 2018, $91,000 were redeemed.
"This program is a collective effort between Community Farm Alliance, Bluegrass Farm to Table, the Governor's Office of Agricultural Policy (GOAP), the Kentucky Department of Agriculture (KDA), Passport Health Plans and WellCare Health Plans to create a more equitable food system that supports consumers and farmers together," a CFA press release stated.
"The Kentucky Double Dollars Program helps achieve one of the key goals of our Hunger Initiative -- to make fresh local foods accessible to more Kentucky families," Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles said. "It also increases sales at Kentucky farmers' markets, creating new income for producers. These results make it a great fit for investment from the Kentucky Agricultural Development Board. I applaud Passport, WellCare and CFA on securing the funding to continue and expand this effective and important program."
Members of the CFA and state agriculture department celebrated the Double Dollars program concurrent with National Farmers Market Week (Aug. 4-10) and stated that the markets provide infrastructure and support to local farmers and vendors, they create a physical meeting space for community members, and they cultivate interaction between consumers and the local food system.
"Kentucky Double Dollars is important because it provides incentives for consumers who participate in nutrition assistance programs to shop local, which increases healthy food access to low-income consumers," Smith said. "This purchasing puts dollars into the pockets of farmers, it keeps our farmers markets strong and creates community for everyone in these places. Kentucky Double Dollars is a win-win, for producers and consumers alike."
Reach Taylor Six at 624-6623 or follow her on Twitter @TaylorSixRR.