In Network News

Field & Fork Network seeking $1 million allocation of funding to support Double Up Food Bucks Nutrition Incentive program

Buffalo, NY – Today, Field & Fork Network voiced its deep disappointment in the omission of funding for the Double Up Food Bucks NYS program in the New York State Senate and Assembly One-House budget proposals passed this week.

The assembly budget proposal includes a $25 million appropriation to support Nourish NY – a state initiative founded by Governor Cuomo at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic that provides surplus agricultural products to emergency food organizations at competitive prices. In a time where hunger is escalating at an unprecedented rate, emergency food services provide an essential lifeline for families in need. However, heavily investing exclusively in programs like Nourish NY takes away funding from more sustainable programs that give families more flexible food options that fit their lifestyles and food choices.

“While the Nourish NY program has provided excellent support to struggling NYS farmers and families during the pandemic environment, it is important for the state to lessen the load placed on the emergency food system by investing in nutrition incentive programs like Double Up Food Bucks that can lead to long-term improvement in food-insecurity,” said Lisa French, co-founder and executive director of Field & Fork Network.

Field & Fork Network is urging state legislators to consider earmarking $1 million of the $25 million appropriated to Nourish NY to the Double Up Food Bucks NYS program. Double Up Food Bucks (Double Up) is a nutrition incentive program that matches Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits dollar-for-dollar, on fresh fruit and vegetable purchases at participating farmers markets, mobile markets, small retail, and grocery locations. Since 2014, Double Up has helped to provide access to healthy, affordable produce to over 22,500 customers across New York State, while also supporting over 200+ farmers with increased revenue. Today, Double Up operates in 23 counties across upstate NY—with plans to double its footprint by 2024.

Double Up Food Bucks owes this success in part to the continued support received from a set of diverse partners, like the American Heart Association, that actively advocate on the program’s behalf. “The American Heart Association understands the importance of prioritizing access to healthy food initiatives, especially during the pandemic,” said Caitlin O’Brien, government relations director at American Heart Association. “The Double Up Food Bucks program which was not funded in either of the legislature’s budget bills, is a
commonsense solution. The legislature did appropriate $25 million for the Nourish NY Program, however. This is a good program that provides emergency food assistance, and the Double Up program would be a helpful supplement. If the state took $1 million of the funds allotted to this and invested them in Double Up Food Bucks, that would be an investment in a long-term, sustainable program to help with nutrition insecurity.”

Incentive programs like Double Up meet people where they are in their communities by providing access to more affordable food in existing food retail sites and farmers markets. Double Up addresses major food-insecurity challenges, like access and affordability, by partnering with stores in areas of high need to give people the power to choose their own foods. “Double Up allows SNAP users to purchase foods they want to eat on a long-term basis, rather than having to rely on what is available at a food bank or soup kitchen,” said French. “When families can choose their own foods, they will have an easier time fostering healthy eating habits, changing behaviors, and fitting their diets to their time and cooking capabilities.”

Diversifying solutions to address food insecurity long-term is a more sustainable way to ensure people are empowered with the choice for healthier, obtainable alternatives that conform to their dietary or culturally appropriate food needs. It also gives them the choice of where to buy, which in turn establishes a long-term relationship with local stores and farmers who then expand their customer base and income. This puts food dollars spent back into local economies, leading to a wider economic impact. According to a recent study performed by Colorado State University, healthy food incentive programs lead to powerful returns on investment. The study showed that for every dollar spent in New York State with Double Up, $2.20 goes back into stimulating the local economy. In 2020 alone, Double Up program purchases contributed $500,000 to the NYS economy. Further investment in the program by the state would significantly increase that number. To read the full economic impact study and to learn more about Double Up Food Bucks New York, please visit www.doubleupnys.com/resources.