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Original Story in the Register Star

Rolling Grocer 19, a full-service grocery store in downtown Hudson, will start providing people on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits with a $1-for-$1 match on purchases of fruits and vegetables up to $20 per day.

The New York-based nonprofit Field and Fork Network announced a $5,000 donation to a nationwide food incentive program called Double Up Food Bucks to help jumpstart Rolling Grocer’s participation in the incentive program. The grant is supported with funding from the Fresh and Healthy Food for All Initiative of Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation.

The money will help SNAP users obtain healthy foods at Rolling Grocer 19, a nonprofit store that uses a sliding-scale, fair-pricing system, allowing shoppers to pay based on their annual salary.

“Our customers light up when they learn they won’t have to choose between meat for the week and fresh produce,” said Selha Graham, project manager for Rolling Grocer 19. “It allows them to access healthy foods and still afford their essentials.”

According to research conducted by Field and Fork Network, the number of grocery stores in Columbia County has decreased by 20% over the last decade. Also, more than 11% of Columbia County’s estimated 63,000 residents live in poverty, with nearly one in 10 lacking sufficient quantities of affordable, nutritious food.

“This grant is an investment in health because it makes fresh produce more accessible,” said Lisa French, executive director of Field and Fork Network. “It’s an investment in farmers because they can sell more of the goods they grow. And it’s an investment in families so they, and their communities, can thrive.” Double Up Food Bucks started at seven farmers markets in 2014, offering SNAP users an opportunity to double their grocery money for the specific purchasing of fruits and vegetables.

The program has grown to serve more than 32,000 SNAP users across 29 counties, generating $4.8 million in healthy food sales. “Access to healthy foods is so important and will only become more important going forward,” said Frances McGuire, program manager for Double Up Food Bucks. “One of the biggest barriers facing low-income families is affordability of produce, especially local produce.”

Disparities in healthy food access in low-income neighborhoods is well-studied in communities across the nation. Researchers at Yale University found that healthy foods are significantly less available to low-income families.

In the Hudson Valley, a visit to a farm stand with organic vegetables illuminates this stark divide. Fresh produce is more expensive than the dollar-value menu at a fast-food chain. Access to healthy foods support a person’s overall wellbeing mentally, physically and emotionally. Double Up Food Bucks has now made it possible for SNAP users to have double the access to fresh produce.

“It gives people a choice during difficult times,” McGuire said. SNAP users can sign up for the program at Rolling Grocer 19 located at 6 S. Second St in Hudson. McGuire confirmed that the program will exist in perpetuity at Rolling Grocer.

The Hudson Valley 360 also ran an editorial piece.