Nonprofit pays MU Extension $750K for more fresh produce to SNAP recipients

(The Center Square) – Availability of fresh produce for low-income families in western Missouri might grow after a nonprofit agreed to pay more than $750,000 to the University of Missouri Extension for assistance.

Last summer, the Mid-America Regional Council (MARC) – an association of city and county governments in western Missouri – received a $4.6 million grant from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). The funds are a three-year nutrition incentive program to assist in COVID relief and response.

NIFA, a division of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), requires the funds to assist low-income communities’ critical food and nutrition needs enduring the pandemic. It also seeks to enhance the resiliency of food and health care systems impacted by the pandemic and maximize funds for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients.

MARC’s healthy food incentive program – Double Up Food Bucks – provides a dollar-for-dollar match for fresh fruits and vegetables, up to $25 per day, at participating grocery stores, farmers markets, farm stands and mobile markets across 35 counties in western Missouri and eastern Kansas. The program is currently funded by a separate $4.05 million grant from USDA and NIFA that’s matched by $4.05 contributed by local and regional funders, including the Kansas Health Foundation, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas, the Health Forward Foundation, Blue KC, the Hall Family Foundation, the Marion and Henry Block Foundation, the Sosland Foundation and the William T. Kemper Foundation.

The Double Up program has provided almost $3 million in incentives for SNAP recipients since 2015.

“This program is a huge benefit to SNAP recipients, to be able to afford to buy more fruits and vegetables,” said Missouri University Extension state nutrition and health education specialist Jollyn Tyryfter in a statement.

The University of Missouri Extension announced on Wednesday a $757,622 agreement to assist MARC in expanding its Double Up program from 80 to 140 locations in 66 counties in Missouri and Kansas.

“It’s also a great benefit to local farmers market vendors who are able to sell more fruits and vegetables,” Jennifer Elms, coordinator of Missouri University Extension’s Double Up Food Bucks program, said in a statement.

MARC research found SNAP recipients participating in the Double Up program during the last six years could afford to buy more fruits and vegetables. It found farmers who sold fruits and vegetables at participating farmers’ markets made more money and sold more produce. All grocery stores and 98% of farmers market managers said they would recommend the program to other outlets, saying it was good for their business.

The University of Missouri Extension will be reaching out to interested farmers, farmers market managers and other vendors to provide additional information through upcoming webinars.

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