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Double Up Food Bucks program gives extra funding for produce

Posted at 5:05 AM, Apr 05, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-05 12:53:15-04

A little-known program is trying to make a bigger name for itself at the State Capitol and in the communities that need it. 

Have you heard of Double Up Food Bucks Arizona? It has been around since 2015, but program organizers said not enough people are using it. 

If you or someone you know is receiving SNAP benefits, which were formally known as food stamps, they can use Double Up Food Bucks Arizona to get more healthy fruits and vegetables directly from Arizona farmers. 

SB 1245 is making its way through the state legislature with broad bipartisan support right now and it would allocate more money to the program.  

Participants can go to farmers market locations and spend up to $20 on SNAP-eligible items. Their money is matched dollar for dollar and they can spend that matched money specifically on fruits and vegetables at these locations. So, in a sense - they are getting $20 worth of food for free. 

ABC15 recently met up with SNAP participants, like Katie DiBenedetto at Uptown Market in Phoenix near Central Avenue and Bethany Home Road. 

"Some people are just kind of in a spot," DiBenedetto said. "And they have them [SNAP benefits] for a minute and it's what sort of helps them...get to where they're going." 

DiBenedetto said that is what is happening in her life which brings her to the market roughly once a week for groceries. 

Stacey Champion works for Champion Public Relations and is a spokesperson for Pinnacle Prevention. They were the organization that got the federally funded USDA program to come to the Valley. 

She said that farmers get more income this way, families have access to better nutrition and the money stays in our local economy. 

The bill did make it through a vote in the Senate with an overwhelming majority of support, but there were a handful of votes against it. 

ABC15 reached out to the five lawmakers who recently decided not to support the bill. Only one responded to our request for a statement. 

Republican Senator Warren Petersen, who represents legislative district 12, responded in an email with this: "I have consistently voted against bills like SB 1245 which expand the welfare state. The billions we are now spending on welfare has  crowded out funding for higher priorities such as increasing teacher’s salaries."

The Trump Administration also announced back in February that they had planned on scaling back the SNAP program over the next 10 years in order to save the nation over $130 billion. By doing that, the administration proposed "Harvest Boxes" that would be delivered to the door of those who need it. 

The bill to continue supporting Double Up Food Banks did advance, however, and will be voted on in the House. Proponents also arguing to keep it alive due to how it supports farmers themselves. Since the program started in 2015, advocates cite a nearly 300 percent increase in sales at farmers markets.