New Farm Bill includes changes similar to Flint Farmers Market - ABC 12 – WJRT – Flint, MI

New Farm Bill includes changes similar to Flint Farmers Market incentive

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(02/06/14) - Part of the new Farm Bill includes changes to the food stamp program to encourage people to buy more fresh produce.

A similar program is already underway in Mid-Michigan. For the past three years, the Flint Farmers Market has offered those shopping with a Bridge Card quite a big incentive.

It's called the Double Up Food Bucks program, and for three years now, it has allowed those that depend on food assistance - the ability to double their budget.

"Whatever they spend on their Bridge Card, they can add that same amount to basically, a rewards card, and they can use the value that they earned on that card to buy Michigan produce," said Dick Ramsdell, manager of the Flint Farmers Market.

That ability to stretch the food dollars lets families add more essentials to the menu.

"If mom comes down here with say, $20 that she wants to spend at the market, she used to have to decide how that $20 would be divided. Now, she can spend that whole $20 on meat and cheese and have $20 additional to spend on produce," Ramsdell said.

Supported by the CS Mott Foundation and the Ruth Mott Foundation, the program also boosts the local economy. Young farmers, like Stephen Arellano, are among those benefiting.

"It's giving us a real chance to be competitive and make the money we need to make and the other thing we're really grateful for is that we have a chance to reach customers in the area that are struggling and on food assistance, but we can still get them that healthy food," Arellano said.

"It encourages people to eat more fruits and vegetables and it also supports Michigan farmers," Ramsdell said.

Both foundations have supported the program since 2011 and will continue to do so through the rest of the year. By then, the Farm Bill that is expected to be signed by President Obama will take over -promoting the same principles.

"A big part of the Farm Bill is the food assistance piece. The whole idea is that the foundations will step out of the picture, the government assistance will step in, but those that need the assistance will continue to get it right on through," Ramsdell said.

So far, both foundations have contributed $263,000 to this particular program.

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