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Local Farmer's Market Offering Incentive for Healthy Eating

This weekend will kick off the new Double Up Food Bucks program at the Farmers Market of the Ozarks (FMO). The program is designed to encourage low-income families to eat more fruits and vegetables by making them affordable and accessible.

The goal is to get low-income families to bring home more healthy food, local farmers to receive new and more business and to keep more money in the local economy.

For those who participate in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the process is easy. All one has to do, once arriving at either the Springfield or Branson Landing location, is find a market information tent and swipe their EBT card.

From there, the market manager will give the cardholder their normal value in tokens, and then participants can also receive double the purchase value in food bucks. They may use the SNAP tokens to buy any SNAP eligible items at the market, and use the Double Up Food Bucks tokens for any fresh fruits and vegetables.

Each cardholder is allowed up to $25 per day of food bucks.

“For over a year we have worked on developing funding and educational programming for this new program and are excited to finally launch,” said FMO Executive Director Lane McConnell in a press release.  “Thanks to assistance from Wholesome Wave, the market was granted $20,000 to use as the funding source for the Double Up Program.  These funds will be used to double the food dollars that SNAP participants receive at both our Springfield and Branson markets, creating a win-win for EBT users and local farmers.”

Wholesome Wave is a U.S. nonprofit organization that creates partnership-based programs that enable low-income consumers to make healthier food choices. They support a growing network of over 700 farmers markets and retailers in 42 states and have agreed to grant FMO $20,000 each year for the next four years.

“We have been looking for ways to actually fund a Double Up Food Stamp program at FMO for a couple of years now,” McConnell said. “We used to get money through the Department of Health and Senior Services, but those funds got cut about six years ago from the state budget.”

She said the program goes beyond just making healthy food accessible. The FMO will also offer educational classes on days the market is open.

“What we’ll be doing with our educational classes is offering a lot of specific cooking classes and nutritional education classes to start those healthy eating habits early on,” she said.

She also said that part of the program is to get specific bus routes from the north side of Springfield to the market on days it is open. Though this part of the program may not come around for a few weeks, some local churches have already agreed to help with transportation.

The last phase in the program is to eventually establish a system of bagging up produce and goods for a customer and delivering the items to his or her house.

“We would build the veggie bags at market, and then the church services would pick them up at market with their busses and then take them back over to the participants,” she said.

FMO operates market locations in Springfield on Wednesdays from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and Saturdays from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and in Branson at the Branson Landing on Tuesdays from 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.