The Hernando Farmers Market has partnered with the Jackson Medical Mall Foundation for a program to get more healthy food into the hands of lower-income consumers.
The Foundation offers $1.68 million in new support for the healthy food incentive program called Double Up Food Bucks for sites across the state, including the weekly Hernando Farmers Market.
This year’s market started last month with only local farmers but last week was opened to all vendors. Safety protocols are in place that includes sanitizer pump stations, hand-washing stations, and signed reminders about social distancing.
Double Up Food Bucks (Double Up) increases the purchase of fruits and vegetables among low-income consumers participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by doubling their dollars for more fresh produce. The program also supports local farmers by increasing produce sales.
“Double Up is a creative solution that improves healthy food access for families who need it most while providing real economic benefits for local farmers,” said Erin W. Smith, Double Up program director in Mississippi. “Programs like this can bolster local and regional food systems and help contribute to their long-term presence.”
For each dollar customers spend on fresh fruits and vegetables with their SNAP benefits at the Famers Market, they get an additional dollar to spend on their next purchase, up to $20 a day. This match is provided in the form of physical tokens at farmers markets and electronic coupons at grocery stores. The program helps the consumers and also the farmers selling produce. It also benefits area businesses as more food dollars go into the local economy. Double Up will continue through October 2022.
“Our market started a similar program to double SNAP dollars in 2016 and has continued the program each year,” said Gia Matheny, Hernando Community Development Director, and Farmers Market Director. “There are families who are still struggling financially due to the loss of jobs from the pandemic and we hope our market can benefit everyone in our community.”