Local program helps make SNAP benefits stretch

LINCOLN, Neb. - Many of us try to eat healthy, but it can be expensive. And for people who receive snap benefits, it can be almost impossible. But a new program is looking to encourage healthy eating and making snap benefits stretch.

The University of Nebraska Extension has partnered with the Department of Agriculture and six local grocery stores and farmers market to create the Double Up Food Bucks Program, allowing people who use SNAP benefits to get twice as many fresh fruits and vegetables.

"People want to make the right choice for their family," said Vanessa Wielenga with University of Nebraska Extension. "They want to eat healthy, and it's a financial barrier that usually stops them from doing that."

With this program, if you use SNAP benefits to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables, you get a voucher that can then be used to purchase more fresh produce. The voucher matches dollar for dollar what you spend on these items up to $20 a day, and can be used whenever.

"When they get them, they can go back around and use them immediately or they can wait for another trip," Wielenga said.

The vouchers are good for two years and are stackable.

The program started in just a few farmers markets, but is now in six Lincoln locations including two grocery stores.

"We started out small because those farmers markets are only once a week," Wielenga said. "We're excited to have the grocery partners because it gives customers year-round and also an everyday option to use their benefits."

In its first year at Open Harvest Co-Op Grocery, the Double Up Food Bucks program saw tremendous growth.

"When this program started, they gave away about $4,000 in vouchers," said Open Harvest General Manager Amy Tabor. "Between last year in 2018 and to 2019 so far, just at Open Harvest, we've been able to distribute almost $9,000 in these vouchers."

In total Wielenga said in the last year, $17,000 in vouchers have been used. In its next year, Double Up Food Bucks is looking to double the number of grocery stores that participate.

Participating locations include Sunday Farmers' Market at College View, Fallbrook Farmers Market, Community Crops Veggie Van, Leon's Gourmet Grocery, Open Harvest Co-op Grocer and F Street Market.

For more information on the program,
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