DES MOINES, Iowa -- Thousands of Iowans flock to the Des Moines Farmers' Market every Saturday, but a new program is aiming to help the market be more inclusive.
“We know that those who are using their snap benefits really appreciate having access to fresh produce,” says Aubrey Alvarez, executive director of Eat Greater Des Moines.
For the first time, the Double Up Food Bucks program is up and running at the farmers' market this season. Its goal is to incentivize the idea of fresh, local produce for customers who use a Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits card.
“When you spend one dollar on a SNAP eligible item like bread, milk or meat, then you get one dollar that can only be used for fresh produce. It really doubles those grocery dollars while you are at the farmers’ market.”
Customers can earn up to ten dollars a week to put towards fresh produce. Vendors are required to hang a sign at their booth showcasing they are taking part in the program, but many say customers are not utilizing the option.
“I wish it would increase. I wish people were more aware of the program and what it is,” says vendor Cindy Westrum of Westrum Produce.
While the program catches on, vendors say they are eager to see what next market season brings to the program's success, calling it a win-win for both vendors and customers.
The program is a part of Eat Greater Des Moines and the Healthiest State Initiative. It is also being offered at the Beaverdale, Drake, and Valley Junction farmers' markets.