The Duke Office of Community Health announced in August that it would provide $185,000 in funding to six farmers markets in the Triangle area to sustain Durham’s Double Bucks Program.
Founded in 2014, the Double Bucks Program in Durham works to increase accessibility to fresh food by doubling the buying power of participants in food assistance programs, including members of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. This is done through the use of non-expiring wooden tokens counted and distributed at each of the markets and was modeled off a national program with the same name. Funds can be used at different farmers market locations across the Triangle.
A representative from Hurtgen Meadows Farm, one of Durham Farmers’ Market’s vendors, wrote to The Chronicle that the Durham Farmers' Market sought community funding as a way for companies and institutions to support their employees' communities.
“The support of Duke is greatly appreciated by Double Bucks participants and is a fitting gesture from the community’s major healthcare provider and largest employer,” they added.
While the national Double Bucks Program is funded through a federal grant initiative known as the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program, the Durham version is funded separately through partners, grants and donations. The program sets rules different from national guidelines for what items are eligible to be bought using assistance funds.
“[With] a lot of the Double Bucks programs, the matching portion that the market gives can only be used for fruits and vegetables. Our program is pretty unique in that our matching can also be used for anything,” DFM Manager Kaitlyn Breedlove said.
“Other programs can be kind of limiting because that's a lot of fruits and vegetables, especially if you can only come to market once a month or something. So it can kind of just open up what people can shop for and make it a little more sustainable,” she added.
The previous grant through Blue Cross Blue Shield that funded DFM and other Triangle markets ended last fall, prompting them to scramble for funding.
Although Breedlove knew alternate funding would eventually be secured, her main concern was the continuity of the program. She said that a lapse in the program, even for a few weeks, would not only be devastating to customers that rely on the program, but would also cause customers to lose trust in the consistency of the market.
Duke Health stepped in and not only funded the program but also allowed for one more market to launch the program as well.
“It was just a huge weight off of our shoulders,” Breedlove said. “It was really good for us to not have to have a lapse in the program.”
According to Breedlove, over $30,000 has been spent at DFM using the program in 2023.
“That is $30,000 that is going to our local economy that's supporting local agriculture and local businesses. It is a big impact for our farmers,” Breedlove said. “It is a great way for our farmers to also just get to build relationships with more people in the community, and more people in Durham and get to know their customers better too”
Breedlove added that students interested in getting involved in the Double Bucks Program can volunteer at the participating markets by handing out wooden tokens to customers, giving them insight into the process and allowing them to meet community members.
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