A statewide nonprofit group is helping some Iowans stretch their federal food benefits to purchase more local produce. Aryn McLaren of Iowa’s Healthiest State Initiative says a striking fact helped spur the program called Double Up Food Bucks.”Iowa ranks 50th in fruit and vegetable consumption in the nation. So we are dead last,” McLaren says.
The program was launched on Friday. McLaren says those who use federal food benefits, called SNAP, can now get up to $10 extra to spend at farmers markets. She says those families, plus the farmers, and the local economies all benefit. “It really is a three-fold win for the areas that have this program,” McLaren says.
Double Up Food Bucks is available in six Iowa communities through funding from the World Food Prize. McLaren says when low-income families don’t have enough food, they often don’t eat healthy. “They may be food insecure, but then also when they do have access to food, it’s not always fresh fruit and vegetables, dairy, things that have nutritional value in them,” McLaren says.
The Double Up Food Bucks program was established in Michigan in 2009, but is now expanding to nearly 20 states.
Reporting by Amy Mayer, Iowa Public Radio