For those who want to buy fruits and vegetables from local farmers but struggle to afford them, recently allocated state funding will soon help cover costs for low-income families.
This week, a coalition led by the Farmers Market Fund announced a state funding award of $1.5 million for the Double Up Food Bucks program for farmers markets around the state. Double Up allows Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program recipients to double their money when they use up to $10 to buy fruits and vegetables at farmers markets.
“It’s just beautiful to see how that money circulates back into the community with providing healthy food for people’s bodies, and it helps the farmers want to continue to grow food and do what they love,” said Amanda Pastoria, manager of the Umpqua Valley Farmers Market and the Canyonville Farmers Market.
Pastoria was selected as Oregon Farmers Market Manager of the year in March, and she advocated for the funding at the Oregon State Legislature.
“We’ve really been working hard behind the scenes to make phone calls to senators and write letters and actually go up there to testify and advocate for this program,” she said.
The Farmers Market Fund ran a Double Up pilot between 2015 and 2018, raising $1.5 million in funding for produce-matching farmers market programs.
Pastoria said the recent state funding is a boon for farmers and shoppers in Douglas County as local market managers have needed to find other sources of money to continue their Double Up programs since the end of last year.
“Right now the markets are kind of on their own in regards to the produce match and Double Up,” Pastoria said.
She was able to secure a $1,000 grant to continue matching SNAP recipients’ money at the Umpqua Valley Farmers Market through The Rosemarie Sweet Fund. The grant ran out after four weeks, but Pastoria said a recent fundraiser with Ninkasi Brewing Company also raised several hundred dollars.
Matching funds for SNAP recipients are still available at the Canyonville Farmers Market with a $1,000 grant from Umpqua Health Alliance, she said.
“When 1 in 8 Oregonians are facing food insecurity, we support all efforts to put dollars in people’s hands that give them access to fresh, healthy food options,” said Spencer Masterson, Associate Director of Partnerships & Programs at the Oregon Food Bank, in a press release.
The proportion of people who use SNAP and are food insecure in Douglas County is greater than it is statewide, according to a June 2018 report by the Oregon Center for Public Policy using 2016 data from the Oregon Department of Human Services.
Fifteen percent of people in the county are considered food insecure compared to 13 percent statewide, the report shows. Food insecurity is defined as people who said they struggled to put food on the table or didn’t know how they would get their next meal within the last three years.
That disparity is higher for children. Twenty-five percent of children in the county are food insecure compared to 20 percent statewide.
Twenty-three percent of Douglas County residents and 16 percent of Oregon residents are helped by SNAP benefits. Thirty-seven percent of children in the county and 27 percent of children statewide use SNAP.
Pastoria said state funding, which will take effect next year, is a win-win for farmers, shoppers and local economies, especially in rural areas where food insecurity is high.
This Saturday, the Umpqua Valley Farmers Market is holding its fourth annual Customer Appreciation Day, where people can enter raffles, get free products and find deals.