New Syracuse program to stretch produce food budget may lead to better health

Individuals and families who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP) have the opportunity to maximize those dollars when buying fruits and vegetables, thanks to a new program. the Syracuse Cooperative Market take part in “Double the Food Dollars” to help those on limited incomes put healthier foods on their tables. Market general manager Jeremy DeChario says the products may prove too expensive for many people to risk their limited food budgets.

“People can try their luck with lettuce, a potato, or a squash rather than…get the cheaper, processed, packaged calories. It really allows people to take the opportunity to spread their food budget more into fresh, local produce. »

Syracuse Cooperative Market and Brady Market locations are participating. They will get a boost in business, and it can also help local farmers.

The way Double Up works is that it doubles up to $20 a day in purchases made with SNAP dollars on fruits and vegetables. If low-income families take advantage and buy more products, it can have significant health benefits.

Maura Ackerman is with the Syracuse-Onondaga Food Systems Alliance. She says it can remove some of the barriers to healthier eating that create healthy habits.

“Greater exposure to fruits and vegetables means that children grow into adults who really know many different types of foods and choose to put those foods on their own plates. The sooner we can expose children to those options and those flavors, it really promotes long-term health benefits regardless of weight.

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Double Up program manager Frances McGuire says the extra money can reduce barriers to trying new foods and give people the dignity of choosing, as opposed to using pantry.

Program manager Frances McGuire says the program already exists in other areas of the state, serving about 35,000 SNAP recipients. She says it also helps boost the local economy.

“It benefits SNAP shoppers who get these health foods on their plates. But it also benefits farmers. We work very carefully to select sites for the program that source locally, so the extra incentive money goes straight into the pockets of local farmers who we know can use a little extra cash.

McGuire says funding for Double Up Food Bucks comes from an annual $2 million US Department of Agriculture and is matched with local dollars in each region. Here, this correspondence is from the Allyn Foundation. The program is available at both Syracuse Cooperative Market and Brady Market locations. They would like to expand to more local stores and hope to get more state and county funding to do so.

Ryan H. Bowman