Coalition Report

By Ally Siegler, Food and Environment Outreach VISTA
Missouri Coalition for the Environment

Bridging the Food Gap

Food policy is environmental policy. And in food policy, there are often two main pools of advocates: those who support local farmers and those who support low-income communities. Farmer advocates want to see that farmers make a living wage in exchange for their hard work as good stewards of our air, land, and water. However, food access advocates are sensitive to the increased prices that often accompany local and sustainable food; low-income communities already have trouble affording conventionally-produced food. Although many strive to support both farmers and low-income communities, seldom do proposed solutions take a holistic approach.

There are, however, programs that tackle both farmer and consumer concerns. These programs are called nutrition incentive programs, with the largest of its kind originating from the 2014 Farm Bill under the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) program. FINI grants fund nonprofits, government agencies, and others to run incentive programs in farmers’ markets, grocery stores, and other food outlets. FINI-funded programs like Double Up Food Bucks allow users of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to purchase twice as much locally grown produce for their dollar. Because the program only works for produce grown by local farmers, environmentally-responsible, small-scale farmers can receive a fair price for their product. At the same time, healthy, safe food is accessible to low-income shoppers.

Double Up Food Bucks is commonly viewed as the national standard for SNAP nutrition incentive programs. Although the program started in farmers’ markets, it has expanded to grocerystores across the country.

Because the program is only valid on local food, grocery stores are also incentivized to increase their source of local items in order to grow and sustain the program for their customers. Currently, Double Up Food Bucks is available at all Schnucks in Missouri and multiple farmers’ markets in the St. Louis area. For more info on locations, visit doubleupheartland.org.

Focusing energy toward programs that bridge the gap between local farmers and low-income communities demonstrate that it is possible to support both at the same time. It’s vital that the food system works for everyone and these programs take a leap in that direction.

For information about the Missouri Coalition for the Environment please visit www.moenviron.org.