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SNAP healthy food initiative expands across WNY

Field & Fork Network this week announced a significant expansion of its Double Up Food Bucks program, designed to increase access to fresh, healthy produce for low-income consumers across the region. Participants can now shop at more farmers markets, mobile markets and healthy corner stores from now through Oct. 31.

Double Up Food Bucks is a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program incentive that matches federal food assistance benefits dollar for dollar. Those who use $10 in SNAP benefits at a participating farmers’ market, for example, receive equivalent-value tokens to purchase fruits and vegetables grown in New York State.

The expansion will involve more than 80 new sites across 11 Western New York counties, including several sites in the cities of Buffalo, Niagara Falls and Rochester, all of which surpass the state’s poverty average of 15.3 percent. The cities rank 30.7, 32.9 and 24.9 percent, respectively.

The nonprofit Field & Fork Network also is working with Applied Sciences Group, the National Institute of Food & Agriculture, Harvest New York and the University at Buffalo to improve SNAP efficiency and reach. The effort is part of a $1.2 million Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive regional grant through the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“This project will allow us to break new ground in the field of SNAP incentives and how they are delivered to and redeemed by consumers,” said Lisa Tucker French, cofounder and executive director of Field & Fork Network. “Our objective is to test new technologies in the different market venues ... with the goal of streamlining the delivery of SNAP incentives to include nutrition education and other types of information that improve the overall healthy purchasing experience.”

The Double Up Food Bucks expansion also will amplify its benefit to the regional agriculture economy, French said.

Major participating community markets include those in Buffalo, North Buffalo, Lockport, Niagara Falls, North Tonawanda, Fredonia, Franklinville, Jamestown, Olean, Salamanca and Belmont.

For more information about other Double Up Food Bucks sites and how the program works, visit doubleupnys.com.