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Double Up Food Bucks Colorado FAQ

What is Double Up Food Bucks Colorado (Double Up Colorado)?

Double Up Colorado is a statewide partnership led by LiveWell Colorado in collaboration with key partners including Colorado Department of Human Services, Colorado Farmers Market Association. Cooking Matters Colorado, and Boulder County Public Health. The goal of Double Up Colorado is to increase access to fruits and vegetables among Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) recipients. With Double Up Food Bucks Colorado, SNAP recipients will receive up to $20 in Colorado grown fruits and vegetables when they use their SNAP benefits at participating farmers markets or select retailers.

How does Double Up Colorado work?

Double Up Colorado will kick off this June at 25 farmers markets and at least five select retailers in 19 counties across Colorado. If a family spends $20 in SNAP benefits at a participating farmers market or select retailer, they will get an additional $20 to buy Colorado-grown fruits and vegetables. SNAP benefits will be matched dollar for dollar to be put toward Colorado-grown, fresh fruits and vegetables up to $20 per visit.

During the next three years, the program will expand to more areas of the state to include at least 35 farmers markets and a dozen additional retailers including Community Supported Agriculture, food co-operatives, corner stores and urban agriculture marketplaces located in low-income neighborhoods.

The Double Up Colorado program can be redeemed at participating farmers markets and select retailers (Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs), food co-operatives, corner stores and urban agriculture marketplaces) in low-income communities. Farmers markets are located all across the state and in many StrikeForce counties (counties that have received special designation from the USDA due to a higher concentration of low-income residents), including markets in Alamosa, Boulder, Colorado Springs, Denver, Greeley, Fort Collins, Rifle, and more. A map of participating sites can be found at www.DoubleUpColorado.org.

How many people will Double Up Colorado reach?

In the first year of Double Up Colorado, we anticipate working with at least 25 farmers markets and at least five additional retailers in 19 counties across Colorado. By working closely with our community and state agency partners, the Double Up Colorado program is expected to reach the approximately 150,000 recipients of SNAP that reside in these 19 counties.

Which farmers markets offer Double Up Colorado?

A map of the participating markets can be found www.DoubleUpColorado.org. Each year, Double Up Colorado hopes to increase the number and breadth of participating markets. Markets or retailers interested in joining the program are invited to contact us at: DoubleUp@LivewellColorado.org.

Who will be supported by the Double Up Colorado program?

Double Up Colorado will directly address well-documented needs in the state to improve access to fruits and vegetables for our most underserved populations and will support local produce farmers and markets by increasing their customer base.

More than 11 percent of the state’s population, approximately 600,000 Coloradans, lived in poverty in 2014, with 13.6 percent of households reporting food insecurity, and 5.2 percent reporting very low food security. Currently, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program serves approximately 485,000 Colorado residents each month , providing a critical buffer to food insecurity, helping decrease the burdens of poverty, supporting positive long-term health outcomes, and benefitting children . Coloradans who receive SNAP are provided $1.41 per meal or $4.23 per day on average , making it a challenge to have enough money to buy food for the whole month.

Why is Double Up Colorado so important to our state?

SNAP incentives help stretch food stamp dollars to last through the month and play an integral role in supporting healthy eating habits. SNAP incentives demonstrate a particular benefit for children, as 20 percent of Colorado’s children receive SNAP benefits in a given month. This rate goes up to 24 percent in CO’s rural counties .

Community food assessments have been conducted in LiveWell Communities (and elsewhere) across the state, and a scan of their findings shows support for the potential of SNAP incentives to meet the needs of Coloradans who are low-income. Common findings include better access to farmers markets would help increase fruit and vegetable consumption; low-income Coloradans indicated a desire to consume more fruits and vegetables; there is a need for more nutrition education; and, there is interest in having more fresh, local produce available nearby.

Given the high rates of poverty, obesity, and low rates of fruit and vegetable consumption for Colorado children, Double Up Colorado has the potential to contribute to improved health outcomes.

Why is Double Up Colorado so important to Colorado’s agricultural community and economy?

Colorado’s agricultural community and economy will benefit from the Double Up Colorado because it prompts recipients of the SNAP program to choose Colorado-grown fresh fruits and vegetables. The Double Up Colorado program builds upon USDA’s commitment to enhance the visibility and profitability of Colorado’s farms and ranches. It also helps to increase the share of federal nutrition benefits spent at markets on local produce and increases the profitability of small-acreage fruit and vegetable farmers, which in turn helps local economies. Finally, Double Up Colorado sales stay in the communities where there are spent, so every dollar works for local healthy eating and economic development.

Is Double Up Colorado just limited to farmers markets?

No, interest in SNAP incentives and growth in direct-to-consumer sales goes beyond farmers markets in Colorado due to a growing number of community-based urban agriculture projects with onsite marketplaces that are located in low-income neighborhoods.

Additionally, healthy corner store initiative growth and fresh food financing initiatives (all of which must be SNAP certified and serve low-income communities in Colorado) increase the number of local retailers committed to providing fresh food access to their communities, and some of these innovative retail partners are included in the Double Up Colorado project. For the first year of the grant, 31 markets or retailers representing 19 counties (14 of which are StrikeForce Counties) will be participating in 2016, and more will join in years two and three. For more information about StrikeForce Counties, please visit: http://www.usda.gov/documents/co-strikeforce-info-0115.pdf.

Why are programs like Double Up Colorado so important?

Home to almost 5.4 million people, Colorado is often touted as the leanest state in the nation, but that does not tell the whole story about health in our state. For instance, while Colorado’s adults have the nation’s lowest obesity rate at 21.3 percent, adults with annual incomes below $10,000 have an obesity rate of 29.2 percent.

Although obesity has many contributing factors, healthy eating behaviors such as choosing fresh fruits and vegetables can help reduce obesity and associated health burdens. According to a report by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, 86 percent of adult Coloradans did not meet recommendations for fruit and vegetable consumption in 2013. Making fruits and vegetables more affordable can go a long way toward encouraging consumption.

A recent USDA report concluded that, when compared with the other USDA Food Pattern food groups (vegetable, fruit, grain, dairy, protein),meeting federal vegetable consumption recommendations is the most expensive recommendation to meet (followed by recommendations around consumption of protein and fruit, respectively) and foods lower in calories such as fruits and vegetables tend to be more expensive per calorie than less healthy foods that are high in saturated fat and added sugar.

Several LiveWell Community Partners have completed community food assessments that engaged residents through surveys, focus groups, listening sessions and other presentations. All assessments identified access to and affordability of fruits and vegetables as a key issue. Community health workers in LiveWell Communities also report that residents consistently raise food access as an important local issue. This is a critical time to implement incentives for fruit and vegetable consumption in Colorado, and providing Double Up Colorado will substantially accelerate progress in this state.

Have nutrition incentive programs increased consumption of fruits and vegetables?

A Boulder-area market saw remarkable growth with its nutrition incentive program, Harvest Bucks where SNAP sales increased 335 percent over the previous season. Boulder SNAP participant survey results show that more than 86 percent of Harvest Bucks participants reported increasing consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables; 100 percent agreed that it was easier to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables by shopping at the farmers market; 89 percent reported increasing the variety of fruits and vegetables consumed; and over 85 percent reported they would not have come to the farmers markets without the incentives.

Why is Double Up Colorado a LiveWell Collaboration?

LiveWell Colorado’s vision is a statewide movement that removes barriers to health. We work to prevent and reduce obesity in Colorado by increasing access to healthy food and opportunities for physical activity. Providing incentives to SNAP participants for fruit and vegetables is an important step toward ensuring access to healthy food for low-income families.

What is the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentives (FINI) Grant?
The USDA FINI program is a competitive grant opportunity available through the 2014 Farm Bill which provides funds for SNAP incentive programming and is administered by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). The USDA FINI Grant brings a half million dollars of federal funding into Colorado, including up to $75,000 in cash incentives in 2016, with an increase in incentives in years two and three of the program.

For more information about Double Up Colorado, please reach out to us at DoubleUp@livewellcolorado.org.