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Food Stamp Recipients in Michigan Double Up on Fruits, Veggies

In Michigan, an innovative program brings more locally grown fruits and vegetables to residents living on food stamps.

Called Double Up Food Bucks, it’s the creation of Oran Hesterman, founder of the Fair Food Network. How it works: Food stamp recipients bring a special SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) card to a farmer’s market, food truck or grocery store. If they spend $20, they get an additional $20 to spend on Michigan-grown fruits and vegetables.

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It’s one way to help make ends meet for parents like Latice Ford, an unemployed mother of three.

“The kids go through the fruit faster than I can keep it in the refrigerator or on the table, which isn't a bad thing,” says Ford.

At farmers markets in Michigan, 93 percent of Double Up participants say they’re eating more fruits and veggies, while 83 percent report buying fewer high-fat, low-nutrition snacks, Hesterman says.

Ford’s family is an example of that, as she says the fruit “replaces all the candy, all the chips, all the pop.”

“We take a SNAP program that was initially intended as an anti-hunger program and turn it into an anti-hunger and pro-health program, we literally can pay the farmer now instead of the doctor later,” says Hesterman.

Farmers markets across the country have started accepting SNAP cards — you can find a list here. But the Double Up food bucks is a bonus at more than 150 sites across Michigan. Learn more about the program at FairFoodNetwork.org.