CONTRIBUTED CONTENT — Utah households enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program are encouraged to “Eat Fresh, Buy Local” and have their benefits matched dollar-for-dollar by the Double Up Food Bucks program at participating farmers markets, including some in St. George and Cedar City.
“SNAP families can get an amazing deal on fresh produce using Double Up Food Bucks,” said LaCee Jiménez, SNAP-Ed program coordinator for Utah State University Extension. “When you shop at a farmers market, you are supporting local agriculture and local businesses.”
Each day, participants can receive up to an additional $30 to spend on produce when using their benefits at cooperating farmers markets and farm stands. SNAP dollars can buy a wide range of grocery items, including fresh fruits and vegetables, salsas and dips, breads, frozen meats and dairy products. Families may also purchase seeds and plant starts for growing their own food.
To use Double Up Food Bucks, SNAP enrollees must bring their Horizon card to the information booth at a participating market before shopping. After deciding how much to spend, the booth attendant will process the card for the requested amount and provide tokens that are used as payment to market vendors. Customers will receive SNAP tokens and a dollar-for-dollar match of Double Up Food Bucks tokens.
Hannah Martin, produce incentive specialist with the Utah Department of Health’s Bureau of Health Promotion, told St. George News that Double Up Food Bucks is an opportunity for families to stretch their spending dollar on healthier eating options while supporting small businesses.
“Purchasing local produce directly from farmers keeps your dollars in the community,” she said. “By reducing the number of miles your food travels, you invest in the betterment of the environment and the resilience of your local food system.”
Martin added that produce at farmers markets has been picked while ripe, yielding a fresher and better-tasting fruit to be enjoyed.
Utah farmers markets and farm stands started accepting SNAP benefits as payment in the early 2000s. There are currently 24 participating locations, some seasonal and some year-round, including two each in Washington and Iron counties:
- Downtown Farmers Market at Ancestor Square | Saturdays, 9 a.m. to noon (May 12 through Oct. 31) | 2 W. St. George Blvd., St. George.
- West Village Artisan Market | Wednesdays, 4-7 p.m. | 214 N. 1000 East, St. George.
- Nature Hills Farm Stand | Monday through Saturday, 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. | 4326 N. 2100 East, Cedar City.
- Cedar Saturday Market | Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. (May through October) or 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. (November through April) | 905 S. Main St., Cedar City.
“Farmers markets have worked hard with their local health departments and the Utah Department of Agriculture in order to provide a safe shopping environment during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Jiménez said.
Households with school-age children receiving benefits through Utah’s new Pandemic-EBT program are also eligible to participate in Double Up Food Bucks. Administered by the Department of Workforce Services, the program provides a one-time payment of $308 per eligible student who was enrolled in SNAP, receiving free or reduced-price school lunches or attending a qualifying Title I school as of March 16. Benefits are intended to cover the cost of school meals – roughly $5 per day – missed due to classroom closures in the spring. Online enrollment remains open through Aug. 31.
USU is the implementing agency for Utah’s SNAP-Ed program, Create Better Health. Jiménez told St. George News that USU faculty and staff have worked to formalize the Utah Farmers Market Network and provide training to market managers on how to accept SNAP as payment. Create Better Health also provides online resources on how to plan, cook and store meals using fresh local produce.
“COVID-19 has brought to light how important nutrition and chronic disease prevention can be for our health and well-being,” she said. “‘Eat Fresh, Buy Local’ is an initiative to help people who are experiencing hard times access nourishing food while supporting local businesses.”
For more information on the Double Up Food Bucks program and to locate participating markets, visit the website.
Written by ALEXA MORGAN for St. George News.
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