Celery, carrots, potatoes and tomatoes don’t often evoke emotion, but Mark Kattola says the Fair Food Network’s Double Up Food Bucks program makes the fresh produce exciting.
The president of Landmark Food Centers says the initiative, designed to encourage Bridge card holders to purchase more fresh produce, has been a boon for his two locations in Flint and his customers. They are able to buy the healthy fruits and vegetables they need, and it’s been great for business. Last year, the volume of produce sales skyrocketed 30 percent at his stores, increasing the need for more employees to handle the higher demand for fresh fruits and vegetables and more deliveries from Michigan growers.
With this year’s June 15 early launch of the program in Flint, he anticipates an even more successful year.
Currently, only three grocery stores, as well as the Flint Farmers’ Market, offer the Double Up Food Bucks program. Two are Landmark stores. Hutchinson Food and Drug and Great Giant Supermarket are expected to join the program this summer.
Kattola started Landmark 41 years ago in an old 18,000 square-foot Kroger building and is proud of the business he has built and its place in the city. Oftentimes customers approach him to shake his hand and thank him for offering the community such fine, completely remodeled stores.
The grocer says the Fair Food Network’s Double Up Food Bucks program expansion in Flint makes his stores all the better now that it is offered year around rather than from August 1 through December 31.
“It’s a win-win situation for everybody,” he says. “The farmers get to sell their Michigan produce and make money. We get to sell our products, so we make money and at the end of it, the customers also are winners because they get double the money they spend. This is good for the farmers, retailers and consumers.”
That’s exactly what the Ann Arbor-based Fair Food Network had in mind when it committed up to $750,000 so Flint residents, who have federally subsidized Bridge Cards, will have access to the program year around through December 2017. Those Double Up bucks and the money Flint residents spend on their state Bridge Cards could mean up to $1.5 million in healthy foods for the city’s households.
“Fair Food Network’s Double Up Food Bucks program is helping low-income families stretch their food dollars while improving their diets and growing local economies,” says Oran Hesterman, president and CEO of Fair Food Network. “This is a win-win-win for Michigan.”
The incentive is especially important for Flint, which is still dealing with the aftermath of the discovery of lead in its municipal water system. The expansion is critical for the city’s residents, who have been challenged to afford food because more than 40 percent of them live below the poverty line.
At participating stores in Flint any fresh, frozen, canned or dried fruits, vegetables and milk purchases earn a dollar-for-dollar match in Double Up Food Bucks up to $20 a day that can be spent on any additional fresh produce.
Health experts have found a nutritious diet loaded with calcium and vitamins helps prevent the absorption of lead and improves the health of Flint residents, who already have a disproportionate rate of health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes.
Adding the Double Up Food Bucks program to grocery stores is simply the right thing to do and just plain good business, says Auday Arabo, president and CEO of AFPD, a trade association representing thousands of retailers, including independent supermarkets, operating in Michigan, Ohio and surrounding states.
“We are trying to incentivize folks who are on SNAP benefits to make better choices and live happier lives, and eating fruits and vegetables is part of that,” he says. “We’ve always pushed it from the grocers’ perspective.”
The program, he says, is good for retailers because competition from other stores encourages them to offer it, it’s good for the community, and it helps push fresh produce that could go bad off store shelves.
While the Flint Double Up program will run all year, it is seasonal in the rest of the state. In most locations, the farmers’ market program runs from June 1 – October 31 and the grocery store program runs from August 1– December 31. Shoppers can find a participating location near them at www.doubleupfoodbucks.org
Joe Gappy, a southwest Detroit grocer, says the program is essential, especially for children.
“Every time you can give back to the community, it’s a good thing,” say Gappy, president of the Prince Valley store on Michigan Ave. in Detroit. “You have children who are starving. You have children who have no food. You have children who hate leaving school for the summer because they are not going to eat at home. It’s wrong and it’s sad.”
The Fair Food Network expanded in Flint with the help of federal, state, and private funding from the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive program, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
Philanthropic benefactors include the C.S. Mott Foundation, Community Foundation of Greater Flint, The Kresge Foundation, Ruth Mott Foundation, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and the You Have Our Trust Fund of the NH Charitable.
Editor’s Note: To learn about delicious, healthy recipes that help protect against lead absorption, click on the plum-colored shield at: www.mihotmrecipes
Photos by Paul Engstrom
ABOUT DOUBLE UP FOOD BUCKS
Double Up Food Bucks
How does it work?
Buy milk or fresh, frozen, dried, or canned fruits and vegetables (with no added salt, sugar, or oil) with your Bridge Card at any participating site and earn a dollar-for-dollar match in free Double Up Food Bucks. They can be spent on any fresh fruits and vegetables at that store or other participating sites in Flint. You can earn up to $20 every time you shop with all Double Up points stored on a card and you can use your Double Up Food Bucks all year long. Have questions? Please call 866-586-2796.
Where Can I Double Up? Flint Farmers’ Market
300 East First St.
9 a.m. – 6 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday;
8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Saturday
Landmark Food Center
206 West Pierson Rd.
8 a.m. – 9 p.m. Monday-Saturday;
8 a.m. – 7 p.m. Sunday
Landmark Food Center
4644 Fenton Rd.
8 a.m. – 9 p.m. Monday-Saturday;
8 a.m. – 7 p.m. Sunday
The Local Grocer
601 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave.
7 a.m. – 7 p.m. Monday-Saturday;
10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Sunday
Great Giant Supermarket
G-5204 Saginaw St.
8 a.m. – 8 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays;
8 a.m. – 7 p.m. Sundays
Hutchinson Food and Drug
6509 N Saginaw St.
9 a.m. – 8 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays;
9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Sundays
Additional stores will continue to join the program, so shoppers are encouraged to check the Double Up Food Bucks website for up-to-date information.
How Can I Join?
You only need to sign up once to use Double Up at any participating site in Flint. Just bring your state ID and Bridge Card with you. At grocery stores, go to the customer service desk and the staff with help you register. At the Flint Farmers’ Market, go to the Friends of the Farmers’ Market booth. Remember to sign up before you start shopping with your Bridge Card.
If you don’t have a Bridge Card call the Center for Civil Justice hotline at 800-481-4989 Monday through Friday for help determine if you are eligible for SNAP. You can also visit the www.mibridges.michigan.gov/access/ for additional information.
How Do I Earn Double Up Food Bucks?
Any purchase of milk or fresh, frozen, dried, or canned fruits and vegetables (with no added salt, sugar, or oil) with your Bridge Card earns you free Double Up Food Bucks.
What If I Don’t Live in Flint?
At participating grocery stores, use your SNAP Bridge Card to buy Michigan-grown fresh fruits and vegetables and get FREE matching Double Up dollars, up to $20 per day.
At farmers’ markets, buy any SNAP-eligible food at the market with your Bridge Card dollars. Double Up will match what you spend with FREE Food Bucks – up to $20, every market day. Use them right away or later on to buy Michigan-grown fruits and vegetables.
The farmers’ market program runs from June 1 – October 31 and the grocery store program runs from August 1– December 31. Visit doubleupfoodbucks.org to find a location near you.
What if I have Questions?
Call (866) 586-2796 to talk with the Double Up team.