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Community Outreach Updates: North Mural, Access Discount Updates, FY ‘19 Double Dollars Numbers

by Kirsten Moore, Cooperative Services Director

As we roll into a new fiscal year for the Co-op, we have a lot of community outreach programming to celebrate. Here’s some highlights regarding our community mural project at North, updates to the Access Discount Program, and Fiscal Year (FY) 2019’s Double Dollars numbers. 

Willy North Mural

As many Owners already know, the Co-op is working with Dane Arts Mural Arts (DAMA) to design and install a community painted mural at Willy North. Hopefully many Owners reading this article shopped at North between June 1 and 20 and voted to select the mural theme! DAMA is a nonprofit whose goal is “beautifying neighborhoods throughout Dane County by engaging youth and community members in all aspects of the collaborative mural making process… Each DAMA mural project presents a unique opportunity to address inequities and support unity by engaging at-risk youth, developing neighborhood partnerships, and inviting community members to participate in each step of the collaborative art.” 

Our process started with asking all Co-op employees throughout the organization to suggest theme ideas. We had 17 proposals, and from those 17, Willy North employees voted for their favorite three themes. Then DAMA drafted concept designs for the three themes and we posted those concepts in our North Commons for customers who shop at North to vote for their favorite theme.

Theme Selected: Good Things Grow Here

We are pleased to announce that the winning theme for the North Mural with 60% of the vote is “Good Things Grow Here: The Co-op has been successful on the Northside with help from the Northside community. This mural would acknowledge the diverse groups that have helped Willy North grow and the network of support amongst local organizations, which has led to a vibrant food system that works together for everyone. Another part of the theme could relate to the richness of the environment that grows on the Northside, the places like Warner Park and Cherokee Marsh, where green space lives and is protected by community.” Now that a final theme has been selected, DAMA is finalizing the design and we are working with DAMA to schedule a variety of events on Madison’s north side for the community to paint the mural. We look forward to announcing the dates and events soon! The mural is scheduled to be installed at Willy North in October, and we will hold an event following its installation to dedicate the mural to the community. Much gratitude to DAMA, all our employees, and the 170 customers who made selecting this mural theme for Willy North a success

Access Discount Review Committee

The Access Discount Program is a benefit for Owners who have a financial need. Owners using the Access Discount Program can shop at the Co-op with a 10% discount, receive one coupon for each person on their account to take a free class every year at enrollment, and receive a free tote bag for each person on their account to carry groceries home. Owners enrolled in the Access Discount Program who are still paying equity towards their Ownership also have the option to make smaller payments year by year, at $4 per year for an Individual Ownership and $7 per year for a Household Ownership. 

Every two years, the Co-op convenes a committee of board members, employees, and Owners-at-large with either a history of participating in the Access Discount Program or experience working on food security issues within the community to review the Access Discount Program and make adjustments to reflect the changing times. We review the qualifiers for the program, the program benefits, the process for enrollment, and make recommendations for future outreach. This year’s committee included Board Director Jeannine Bindl, Owner-At-Large Gigi Godwin, Owner Records Administrator Robert Halstead, Owner At-Large Ashley Kuehl, Staff Accountant Becca Schill, Owner-At-Large Megan Vander Wyst, and myself. The following changes to the program have been recommended by the committee and are effective immediately.

Access Discount Enrollment

Owners interested in the Access Discount Program will continue to enroll at the Customer Service desk. Instead of showing proof of income or participation in a food, financial, or healthcare assistance program, Owners enrolling will simply be asked to write on a form that they either participate in one of the qualifying programs or write that their annual income is at or below 150% of the Federal Poverty Guideline. Removing the requirement to bring proof of enrollment or proof of income to the store to start using the program will reduce the security risk for Owners whose proof includes sensitive or confidential personal information, and allow for Owners who need the program to more easily enroll right away. Completion of the form will require Owners to answer a series of simple questions, to sign that the Owner understands they are certifying that the information they provided is true, and to sign that the Owner agrees to provide proof of enrollment in a qualifying program or proof of income at a later time if deemed necessary for the Co-op to verify. Enrollment will still require annual renewal in March to continue participation year-to-year. 

In the past, employees were entirely disqualified from participating in the Access Discount Program, primarily because all employees are extended a 20% discount on their groceries already as a benefit of employment. The committee recognized, however, that for some employees, making equity payments to become Owners if they chose to do so may still be an economic hardship. This is because having a financial need is not tied to wage alone; it can be determined by a number of outside factors such as: the number of people supported in a household, a combination of incomes within a household, or the number of hours a person is able to work due to ability or other personal reasons. As such, the committee recommendations included a provision for employees: while employees will not be eligible to receive a discount above and beyond their 20% employee benefit, if they choose to become Owners and otherwise qualify for the Access Discount Program they may also receive the option to pay Owner equity over a longer period of time, at the $4/year rate for Individual Owners, and $7/year rate for Households. 

Access Discount Qualifiers

The Access Discount Committee also recommended expanding the qualifiers for participation. Owners interested in participating in the program will now be eligible if income is at or below 150% of the Federal Poverty Guideline, or if they have participated in one of the following programs within the three months prior to enrollment:

  • Early Head Start/Head Start
  • FairShare CSA Coalition Partner Shares
  • Free or Reduced Lunch and Breakfast Program
  • Heat for Heroes
  • Medicaid (Badger Care/Senior Care)
  • QUEST FoodShare Program (SNAP)
  • Section 8 Housing Assistance/Community Housing Authority (HUD)
  • Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program
  • Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
  • Special Supplemental Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC)
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Wisconsin Home Energy Assistance Program (WHEAP)
  • Wisconsin Shares Child Care Subsidy Program
  • Wisconsin Works (W-2) (TANF)

Access Discount Outreach

The Co-op has made great strides over the last few years in spreading the word about the Access Discount Program through participation in and promotion of the City of Madison’s Double Dollars Program, working with Section 8 properties on Madison’s north side, participating in the City’s pilot Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program in 2017 and 2018, and by continuing to partner with Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin to offer FoodShare/QUEST (SNAP) outreach and enrollment programming at our three retail locations. The committee has reviewed our outreach efforts and suggested that we extend outreach to more Section 8 properties near Willy East and Willy West, and to also seek partnerships with senior and veteran advocacy organizations. We will also seek to expand our outreach relationship with Second Harvest of Southern Wisconsin to include outreach to WIC participants and local pantries. 

Special thanks to the Access Discount Review Committee for their efforts to continue to foster and improve this important Owner benefit for our community. We’ll review the program again in FY ’21. The Access Discount is made possible by all of our Co-op shoppers, and your continued choice to shop with us. Thank you!

FY ‘19 Double Dollars Distribution Numbers

Last but not least, we wrapped up Double Dollars’ third season at the Co-op on May 31 with a record-breaking $58,800 in Double Dollars vouchers issued (11,760 vouchers) and $51,435 in vouchers redeemed (10,287). That is a redemption rate of 88%, which is slightly lower than previous years (92% in FY ’18, and 93% in FY ’17), but still a very successful redemption rate for the program. Lower redemption this year is likely due to a significant change we made to the program: Double Dollars vouchers did not expire May 31, rather, customers earning vouchers may save their Co-op vouchers for the FY ’20 Double Dollars season at the Co-op starting October 1. The percentage of each $5 voucher redeemed also remains strong, with $4.94 spent per voucher (99%). 

Double Dollars is a City of Madison nutrition incentive program administered by the Community Action Coalition for South Central Wisconsin and supported by Public Health Madison Dane County, the Co-op’s Double Dollars Fund and other private funders. The program supports both Co-op customers and participating local farmers’ market customers using QUEST FoodShare (SNAP) benefits to shop by offering matching vouchers to spend. Co-op shoppers can support the Double Dollars program by making donations at the registers using Double Dollars Fund scan cards available or by reusing bags to carry groceries. The Double Dollars Fund provides for vouchers at both the Co-op and the participating farmers’ markets. Currently, the Double Dollars Fund, entering its third year of existence, has raised just over $150,000 to provide Double Dollars vouchers for the program, about $65,000 of which has been raised to-date this fiscal year. 

Double Dollars vouchers are now available at the farmers’ markets and will be available again at the Co-op October 1. Visit www.cacscw.org/double-dollars/ for more information about farmers’ markets participating in Double Dollars. Many, many thanks to all of you who are supporting the program through monetary donations and reusing bags when you shop, this program would not be possible without your continued cooperative efforts.