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Double Dollars, Pantries of Plenty, and more

by Kirsten Moore, Cooperative Services Director

Thanksgiving is upon us, and we are so grateful to be part of your community and to support your ability to break bread together this holiday season. 

Double Dollars Enters its Fourth Season at the Co-op

It feels like just yesterday that the City of Madison asked us to pilot their Double Dollars program in the retail setting with $45,000 from a United States Department of Agriculture Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive Grant in 2016. The years have just flown by, and last month Double Dollars entered its fourth season at your Co-op. 

Starting October 1, we began accepting any Double Dollars vouchers customers received last season, and from October 22 to March 10 we’ll be distributing Double Dollars on Double Dollars Tuesdays. Customers who use their FoodShare/QUEST (SNAP) benefits when they shop will be eligible to receive Double Dollars vouchers for every $5 they spend on their EBT card, up to $20. The vouchers can be used at any Co-op retail location, any day of the week, during business hours from October through May (unused vouchers can be saved for the following October). Vouchers are good for any item in our Produce department; canned and frozen fruits, vegetables, and legumes; and seeds and seedlings for edible plants to grow in your garden. 

Double Dollars is a City of Madison and Dane County program administered by the Community Action Coalition for South Central Wisconsin. From late fall to mid-spring, Double Dollars are available at the Co-op, and from June to late fall, Double Dollars are available at participating farmers’ markets while funds last. 

Double Dollars Demand is Growing, Especially at the Farmers’ Markets

Each year, more and more people are learning about the value of Double Dollars and how the program makes a difference in the food budgets of those using FoodShare/QUEST benefits. This is especially true at the farmers’ markets, and it is great that the program has gained so much community awareness and that this program is so valuable to its participants. In the first year the Co-op joined the program, redemptions increased at the farmers’ markets a whopping 45%. In our first season of Double Dollars, the Co-op redeemed 58% of all Double Dollars vouchers redeemed at both the Co-op and the farmers’ markets, and in our third season, we redeemed 50%, meaning that the two sections of the program are now about the same in size. This past summer, the farmers’ markets had such a demand for Double Dollars, the farmers’ market Double Dollars season ran out of its budgeted funds early and CAC decided to temporarily suspend distribution so that there would be enough funds to support next year’s farmers’ market season. Based on past trends, we estimate a 9% increase in demand at the Co-op this season over last. 

Funding for the Double Dollars program is currently 100% reliant on donations and contributions for the vouchers alone, and total demand for the program at both the Co-op and the farmers’ markets is outpacing current funding streams. The coalition of Double Dollars partners are currently working on a fundraising strategy in consultation with Amanda White Consulting, thanks to the Force For Positive Change Award the Co-op received in 2018 for the Double Dollars program. We are looking forward to working with Community Action Coalition and our public partners and learning more about how to best manage current demand and the future of this important community program. 

Double Dollars is a Community Program, Your Contributions Make a Difference!

Did you know that since April of 2017, your Co-op has contributed almost $173,000 to Double Dollars all thanks to our customers? It’s true! Your Co-op—through your cash contributions using scan cards at the registers, and the Co-op saving money for the program each and every time you reuse grocery bags—is currently Double Dollar’s largest funder. The Double Dollars Fund supports providing all the vouchers at the Co-op, and some of the vouchers at the farmers’ markets as well. If you haven’t yet supported the Fund, but want to get involved, you can do so two ways: by choosing $1, $5, $10, or $25 Double Dollars Fund scan cards at the cash registers to add a cash donation to your receipt at check out, or by simply reusing bags when you shop at the Co-op. When you bring reusable bags for your shopping trip, we’ll save 10¢ to contribute to the fund, and when you reuse disposable bags for shopping, we’ll save 5¢ to contribute to the fund. All monies that go to the Double Dollars Fund are sent to Community Action Coalition to administer the program. 

Maybe you’re a Co-op Owner who lives out of town and only shops a couple times a year? Or maybe you prefer to make your donations to community nonprofit programs directly on line. You too can support the Double Dollars program via Community Action Coalition’s Double Dollars campaign on Classy at www.classy.org/campaign/double-dollars/c237028. 

Cash donations via the scan cards at our registers and donations made directly to Community Action Coalition are tax deductible. 

Holiday Pantries of Plenty is Back! You Support Double Dollars, We Support Local Food Pantries

Supporting the Double Dollars Fund in November and December counts double! All November and December we’ll give a 1:1 match on your cash donations and bag reuse. When you make a cash donation or reuse bags to support Double Dollars, we will match up to $10,000 of your support by providing Pantries of Plenty to our five neighborhood food pantries: Goodman Community Center Fitz Food Pantry, Lussier Community Education Center, Middleton Outreach Ministry, The River Food Pantry and the newly re-opened Wil-Mar Neighborhood Center. The match will be split five ways and provided in Co-op gift cards for the pantries to acquire fresh items that are harder to come by in the winter season. 

The Pantries of Plenty Double Dollars Match is made possible through abandoned and donated Owner equity. When Owners leave the Co-op, their equity invested belongs to them and they are given the option to have their equity refunded or to donate it to use for charitable purposes such as this match and the Community Reinvestment Fund grants. Please join us in celebrating the generosity of our past Owners by participating in the Pantries of Plenty Double Dollars Match this holiday season. 

New Signs in Foyers: Asserting Everyone Welcome

Co-op Principle 1 states “cooperatives are voluntary organizations, open to all persons able to use their services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership, without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination.” We uphold Cooperative Principle 1 as part of our allegiance to the International Cooperative Alliance, per our bylaws, and because it’s simply the right thing to do. As Anya Firszt noted in her General Manager’s Report, our Co-op has recently been misused to spread hateful messages about the ways certain people in our community identify their gender. For this reason, we feel it is imperative that we take action and remind all entering our spaces that Everyone is Welcome. One way we have done this is by posting new signs in all of our foyers. They state “Everyone Welcome: In our Co-op spaces we assert the right of all people to be treated with respect and dignity without reference to race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, age, disability, genetic information, marital status, amnesty or status as a covered veteran.” While we wish this was something we did not have to explain in this day and age, we stand by it, we will enforce it when necessary, and we are proud to uphold and re-assert our Cooperative Principles and values. To those who shop our stores or use our spaces and services and were not previously aware: everyone is welcome, and can belong as they so choose. 

Supporting Each Other This Holiday Season

Whether you are participating in FoodShare/QUEST and looking for ways to stretch your food budget further, or you’re seeking avenues to contribute to the community’s ability to purchase fresh foods locally; whether you’re reusing bags and wanting that reuse to be noticed and make a difference, or if you’re simply looking for a space to spend time with your neighbors where we all feel like we can belong, your Co-op is doing its part to be a place for you and our community. Happy Thanksgiving to our Owners, customers, employees, and neighbors. We have a lot to be grateful for working together to make our Co-op for everyone.