by Adrienne Renz, Outreach Department
A unique partnership between the Bellingham Farmers Market, Community Food Co-op, Opportunity Council, Sustainable Connections, and Whatcom County Health Department is expanding to increase access to local, healthy, and fresh food throughout Whatcom County. In 2015, our collaborative group was awarded a three-year grant through the 2014 USDA Farm Bill to expand the already successful Fresh Bucks program piloted in 2014 by the Bellingham Farmers Market.
The expanded Fresh Bucks program will further increase access to fresh fruit and produce at the Co-op, Bellingham Farmers Markets, Ferndale Farmers Market, and Twin Sisters Markets, for participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as EBT or food stamps.
Fresh Bucks will match the purchase amount of any EBT-eligible produce up to $10 per day toward the purchase of fresh fruit and vegetables.
In addition to increasing access to fresh produce for SNAP recipients, the Fresh Bucks program will also support and promote local farmers and the products they offer.
If you receive SNAP benefits and are new to Fresh Bucks, simply pick out some fresh fruit and vegetables in the produce department when you shop at the Co-op. When checking out, present your EBT card to the cashier; they will enter the last eight digits of your card number, and your credit match will be applied to your produce purchase. Participants are eligible for up to a maximum $10 Fresh Bucks matching credit per day. The 2016 Fresh Bucks season opened June 1 and will run while funds last. So make the best of the local growing season.
For even more savings, look for Co+op Basics items throughout our stores that offer the very best everyday savings on more than 50 staple items, and use the Co+op Deals coupon program (coupons can be found throughout the store and at the customer service desk). Check the sales page on our website to see what’s currently on sale in our stores.
Having identified Healthy Food Access as one of our six 10-year strategic plan goals, and subsequently implementing the Co+op Basics program, helped make the Co-op’s participation in the Fresh Bucks program possible. Our strong track record of engaging in this topic helped build a successful grant proposal.
Last season, the Co-op’s Fresh Bucks match provided $40,000 in fresh produce for local families using EBT.
In the fall, the Co-op will be offering a cooking class based on the beautiful New York Times best-selling book Good and Cheap: Eat Well on $4/Day. Visit our website later in the summer for information and to register for this October 5 class.
Our co-op is stepping up as a national leader and demonstrating how a grocery store can engage in promoting fresh, local food and increase access to healthy food. Thanks for identifying and supporting Healthy Food Access as a key issue for our community and for everything you do to make the Co-op a working example of what a cooperative business can achieve.