by Katie O’Connell-Jones, Owner Resources Coordinator—West
The farmers’ market season is in full swing! All around Madison and the surrounding areas shoppers have welcomed back the farmers’ markets and rekindled the relationships they have developed with their favorite vendors. Shoppers understand that by supporting them they not only create vibrant markets but they also get to know the food they eat. Local shoppers frequent the area markets to purchase their fresh vegetables and fruits, cheese, meat, honey, baked goods, soaps, plants and much more. Others come to stroll and enjoy the experience of being surrounded by beautiful flowers and visit with their neighbors. Some come to shop for delicious freshly prepared food and be delighted with the festive live music.
Double Dollars At The Farmers’ Market Returns!
One of the efforts the Co-op is most proud of is our support for the farmers’ markets and our continuing involvement in the Double Dollars nutrition incentive program. As a refresher, Double Dollars help customers using FoodShare/QUEST benefits with purchases of more fresh nutritious products at the farmers’ markets during the “season” and later at the Co-op from late fall to early spring. The program supports low-income families by increasing their buying power when making food purchases from local farmers, producers and from the Co-op. Foodshare/QUEST recipients may bring their EBT cards to these markets, make a withdrawal at the information booth, and receive a dollar-for-dollar match on their withdrawal for up to $25 per market day to spend at the farmers’ market where the withdrawal was made.
In addition to the 10 markets around Madison, this year three more farmers’ markets are adding the Double Dollars programs. These markets are the Elver Park Farmers’ Market, Badger Rock Community Market, and the Troy Farm stand.
Healthy Dane funders Matching Up To $10,000 In Double Dollars Fund Donations
Now there is even more support for the Double Dollars program. Healthy Dane Funders is a community collaborative comprised of four Dane County hospitals—Unity-Point Health-Meriter, UW Health, Stoughton Hospital, SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital—and also Public Health Madison and Dane County. The group came together to assess the health needs of the community and they determined that supporting the Double Dollars program was one way they could help meet those needs. For every contribution you make during the month of July, Healthy Dane Funders will match your contribution twice, up to a maximum of $10,000. For example, when you give your cashier one of the $1, $5, $10, or $25 scan cards at the register, Healthy Dane Funders will match it with a donation of $2, $10, $20, or $50. Another way to support the fund (and help the environment) is by shopping with reusable bags (the Co-op contributes 10¢ for each reusable plastic or fabric bag used and 5¢ for each paper bag to the Double Dollars Fund).
Impact of the Double Dollars Programs at the Farmers’ Markets
The fundamental goal of the Double Dollars program is pretty straight forward—help families eat healthier. A noble goal in and of itself, and there are other benefits that are not as obvious but worth touting. Recently, I visited the Community Action Coalition for South Central Wisconsin (CAC) to get their perspective on the program. There, Erica Anderson, Food Security Specialist, Mallory Swenson, Community Engagement Fund/Development Specialist, and Dawn Bradshaw, Foods Program Leader, discussed the impact of the Double Dollars Fund on the area farmers’ markets. Dawn was excited to share with me that many people assume that shopping at farmers’ markets is outside of their budgets and unaffordable. By taking advantage of the Double Dollars program, they are able to shop and make choices just like everyone else and no longer feel excluded or that nutritious fresh food is simply not in the budget. She feels that the program has most definitely increased foot traffic that would not otherwise be shopping at one of the farmers’ markets. All of the vendors at some point will probably see Double Dollars being spent at their stand and thereby benefit from the program through increased sales. They are also meeting new customers and building relationships that they otherwise would not have.
Erica adds that key themes are apparent, “Folks like to support the local farmers.” It has a community spirit element and feel to it. She said, “It’s very unique to the market. People want to know where their food comes from. It’s better quality, it’s fresher and they are supporting people in our community who are working hard to grow and raise it.” The Double Dollars program helps people feel healthier when they purchase fresh food at the farmers’ market and that their diet is better. Erica also touted, “By using Double Dollars (at farmers’ markets), people are able to afford items they wouldn’t normally be able to purchase such as bread, meat, honey, and maple syrup.” This makes “fresh produce” dollars go further, leaving money in the budget available for other beneficial foods that one may otherwise not normally afford. Another side benefit Erica noted was “people like being able to bring their kids to the market. They feel like it is a positive experience being able to teach them what it means to eat healthy.”
Hearing From Recipients of the Program
So how do the beneficiaries of the Double Dollars nutrition incentive program feel? A recent survey taken by the CAC recorded these responses:
“I love to support the local farmers! It improved my family’s health.It gives me options/choices that I wouldn’t otherwise have to buy local, organic food. It connects me to my community and provides good health to my family. Thank you to all who have made this program possible. It has made a big difference to my family.”
“I love the chance to support the local economy and the families who create and support opportunities to eat well! Without Double Dollars, I am not sure that I would feel the incentive to venture out to the farmers’ market, though I support the markets in theory! Double Dollars makes it possible to give my growing child what he needs to thrive. Double Dollars are a huge support for individuals and families!”
“Double Dollars are great because they allow me to access higher quality local foods that are fresh.”
“I shop at the farmers’ market for the food and the atmosphere. I enjoy the fresh produce and consider it necessary for a healthy diet. The Double Dollars program has made it possible for me to eat more healthy food. Last season I decided to start canning and used my Double Dollars for all the food. This made it last through the wintertime. Thank you for this program.”
Thank You for Your Continued Support
The Co-op continues to be proud to be involved with Double Dollars program. We want to thank the Owners who have generously donated to the Double Dollars Fund and reused bags to support the program.Your support helps to reduce food insecurity in our area while supporting our local farmers, a true win-win for our community! If you have any questions about the Double Dollars program, please visit our website and feel free to contact us at www.willystreet.coop/contact-information. We look forward to matching donations with Healthy Dane Funders throughout July and we also look forward to continuing to support Double Dollars at the farmers’ markets and bringing Double Dollars back to the Co-op this fall.