The Fair Food Network says it will use a $5.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to expand Michigan’s Double Up Food Bucks program.
The program helps residents receiving food assistance benefits purchase more fresh fruits and vegetables through a dollar matching system.
More than 150 farmers markets and grocery stores throughout the state currently participate in the program.
Many of those locations are farmers' markets, but a grocery store pilot program includes several stores in Detroit and West Michigan.
Oran Hesterman, president and CEO of the Fair Food Network, said some of the grant will go toward bringing the program to more grocery stores, and making it available year round.
“We can have [families] access Michigan produce when it’s in season, [then] fruits and vegetables grown by farmers in other areas during the off season,” Hesterman said.
A Fair Food Network study of Double Up's first five years said more than 90 percent of SNAP recipients have reported eating more fruits and vegetables.
Hesterman said that's only the first of several of the program's victories.
"Farmers are earning more money and getting new customers, that's the second win,” he said. “The triple win is that those food dollars stay in the local economy."
The grant will also be used to expand another pilot program that lets farmers process payments using smart phones.