NY Commits to Expanding Food Access with Bipartisan Support of Double Up Food Bucks NY

Field & Fork Network is excited to announce that the Double Up Food Bucks NY program has received bipartisan support for the third year in a row!

Field & Fork Network applauds Governor Kathy Hochul, the New York State Senate, and New York State Assembly, for their commitment to strengthen our local food system through the investment in Double Up Food Bucks NY. This critical support helps low-income families afford and have access to healthy New York grown fruits & vegetables. Through strategic partnerships with grocery stores like Northeast Grocery (Tops Friendly Markets, Market 32, Price Chopper), New Yorkers can stretch their food budgets, purchase the items that are culturally relevant for their families, with the ease and convenience of a coupon. NY State’s ongoing budget appropriation is vital for Double Up Food Bucks NY to be able to operate in large grocery stores; ensuring the program is offered in an equitable way, reaching more SNAP customers where they shop.

The State funding is also an investment in New York family farms. Field & Fork Network creates economic opportunities for over 400+ family farms across the state, directly distributing $1.5 million in Double Up Food Bucks. These funds help small farms hire new employees, purchase equipment, and reinvest in their business.

Field & Fork Network would like to highlight the work of our champions Senator Michelle Hinchey and Assemblymember Demond Meeks. Without their commitment over the last three years our work would not be possible. Additionally, we’d like to thank our legislative partners Senator Roxanne Persaud, Senator Rachel May, Assemblymember Donna Lupardo, Assemblymember Jessica González-Rojas, Senator George Borrello and Assemblymember Angelo Morinello. The funding they helped champion in the 2024-25 NYS Budget will be matched with Federal funds from the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program, doubling the dollars available to New Yorkers.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic New York State has made significant investments and enacted policy to improve our local food system, however, food Insecurity and nutrition insecurity still plague New Yorkers. A recent NY Health Foundation Report found, that 1 in 10 New Yorkers reported food insufficiency, and that number spiked to 1 in 5 for African Americans and Hispanics. Double Up Food Bucks NY is a program that can help alleviate this burden. We are thankful to our state partners and for heeding our call and recognizing the need to do more.

Ongoing investment in Double Up Food Bucks NY is critical for the program to continue to innovate, sustain, and grow it’s footprint across the state. Additional sites are set to be added in 2024, including additional farmers markets, community supported agriculture (CSA) shares, grocery stores and authorized SNAP online retailers to help meet more customers where they are shopping.

Field & Fork Network would like to personally thank all of the representatives who provided their steadfast support for the Double Up Food Bucks NY program, including:

The Honorable NYS Governor Kathy Hochul
Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins
Senator Michelle Hinchey
Senator Rachel May
Senator Roxanne J. Persaud
Senator Joseph P. Addabbo
Senator George Borrello
Senator Neil D. Breslin
Senator Jabari Brisport
Senator Samra Brouk
Senator Patricia Canzoneri-Fitzpatrick
Senator Iwen Chu
Senator Cordell Cleare
Senator Jeremy Cooney
Senator Patrick M. Gallivan
Senator Joseph A. Griffo
Senator Pamela A. Helming
Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal
Senator Timothy M. Kennedy
Senator John C. Liu
Senator John Mannion
Senator Monica Martinez
Senator Jack M. Martins
Senator Zellnor Y. Myrie
Senator Thomas F. O’Mara
Senator Peter Oberacker
Senator Robert G. Ortt
Senator Anthony Palumbo
Senator Kevin Parker
Senator Jessica Ramos
Senator Steven D. Rhoads
Senator Gustavo Rivera
Senator Rob Rolison
Senator Sean Ryan
Senator Luis R. Sepulveda
Senator James N. Tedisco
Senator Kevin Thomas
Senator Leah Webb
Senator Alexis Weik

Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie
Assemblymember Demond Meeks
Assemblymember Donna Lupardo
Assemblymember Khaleel Anderson
Assemblymember Didi Barrett
Assemblymember Anil Beephan
Assemblymember Scott Bendett
Assemblymember Karl Brabenec
Assemblymember Harry Bronson
Assemblymember Maritza Davila
Assemblymember Inez Dickens
Assemblymember Jeff Gallahan
Assemblymember Deborah Glick
Assemblymember Jessica González-Rojas
Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn
Assemblymember Andrew Hevesi
Assemblymember Jonathan Jacobson
Assemblymember Josh Jensen
Assemblymember Billy Jones
Assemblymember Anna Kelles
Assemblymember John Lemondes
Assemblymember Dana Levenberg
Assemblymember Jennifer Lunsford
Assemblymember Brian Maher
Assemblymember Brian Manktelow
Assemblymember John McDonald III
Assemblymember David McDonough
Assemblymember KarenMcMahon
Assemblymember Brian D. Miller
Assemblymember Angelo J. Morinello
Assemblymember Michael J. Norris
Assemblymember Steven Raga
Assemblymember Jonathan Rivera
Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal
Assemblymember MaryJane Shimsky
Assemblymember Gina Sillitti
Assemblymember Matthew Simpson
Assemblymember Phil Steck
Assemblymember Chris Tague
Assemblymember Al Taylor
Assemblymember Fred Thiele Jr.
Assemblymember Monica Wallace
Assemblymember Carrie Woerner
Assemblymember John Zaccaro Jr.

Improving Food Security & Access to More Locally Grown NY Food Made Possible with USDA NIFA Support

Field & Fork Network, a leading nonprofit organization dedicated to fostering a sustainable local food system, is honored to announce the receipt of a large-scale grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Institute of Food & Agriculture through the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program (GusNIP). This grant will help sustain and grow Field & Fork Network’s Double Up Food Bucks NY (Double Up) nutrition incentive program, which works to improve dietary health and nutrition security among underserved communities in New York State. 

For 10 years, Field & Fork Network has focused on rigorous evaluation and new technology to improve, scale, and deliver the program more equitably. Today, Double Up is available at more than 230 access points including grocery stores, farmers markets and mobile markets throughout New York State. Since 2014, the program has brought more than $13 million in combined SNAP and Double Up sales—dollars directly benefiting New York farmers and local businesses—equating to more than 8.6 million pounds of healthy food to New York families.  

“Double Up provides multiple benefits: it’s a win for low-income families putting more healthy food on their tables; it’s a win for NY farmers selling more produce and a win for area businesses as more food dollars circulate in the local economy,” said Josh McGuire, Double Up NY Program Director.  

Field & Fork Network’s Double Up program provides Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants with a $1-for-$1 match on purchases, that can be used to buy local fresh produce and contributes to a more sustainable food system. Field & Fork Network is committed to ensuring every New Yorker has access to the program.  The project will focus on three key innovations to reduce barriers and increase accessibility: 

  • Automatic Enrollment at Grocery Stores: Field & Fork Network is partnering with Catalina Marketing to automatically offer SNAP users the incentive when they make a qualifying purchase using their Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card. This makes the program more accessible by allowing it to operate in larger chain grocery stores and eliminating the sign-up barrier. Field & Fork Network has created strategic partnerships with various chain grocery stores including Tops Friendly Markets and Albertsons Companies to offer the program. 
  • Expansion to SNAP Online Shopping: Integrating Double Up with SNAP Online, reduces transportation barriers and time constraints. Allowing SNAP shoppers to take advantage of the resource with the click of a button. 
  • Support for Nutrition Incentives to Purchase Community Supported Agriculture (CSA): Double Up will offer SNAP shoppers a “BOGO” incentive for CSA boxes. This initiative increases access to and convenience of purchasing high quality, local produce for SNAP shoppers and invests in NY farmers. 

“Before Double Up, it was hard to stretch my SNAP funds and make them work. I was really limited in what I could shop for. Unfortunately, those things are not nutritious, and so it came down to making a choice between eating healthy and eating. Double Up gave me the extra money to buy fresh foods and incentivized me to go to the farmers market,” said Tim Bryant, Double Up Shopper. 

The grant award is an $8 million investment which requires non-federal matching funds. These federal dollars are leveraging NY State funds to help serve New Yorkers in need. Together this public-private partnership is supporting an ambitious New York expansion. Specifically, it aims to bring Double Up to every county in the state outside of NYC by 2027, reaching over 50,000 new SNAP households. This is Field & Fork Network’s second large scale Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program grant, the first large scale grant was received in 2020. 

Field & Fork Network’s success in securing this grant was made possible through the crucial support of evaluation partners, Action Research Collaborative (ARC) at Cornell University.  

“We’ve been working with Field & Fork Network since 2022 to evaluate the Double Up Food Bucks Program and its impact on SNAP recipients, farmers, grocers. With this new USDA funding, we look forward to using innovative strategies to make the program more accessible to low-income families across New York,” said Tashara Leak, associate professor and associate dean at Cornell University and co-Principial Investigator on the project. 

This grant underscores Field & Fork Network’s commitment to improving food security and enhancing access to locally grown, fresh food in New York State. It represents a significant step in reaching a more equitable and sustainable food system. Field & Fork Network’s innovative ideas and solutions continue to position the organization as a leader in the nutrition incentive space. 

Assemblyman Demond Meeks and Assemblyman Harry Bronson Join Field & Fork Network and Foodlink to Announce its Inclusion in the New York State Budget

Funding helps combat food insecurity, supports New York farmers, and local economies

Assemblyman Demond Meeks and Assemblyman Harry Bronson joins Field & Fork Network and Foodlink to announce its inclusion in the New York State Budget. Double Up Food Bucks NY received bipartisan support for the $2 million allocation for the second consecutive year; the funding will allow the statewide nutrition incentive program to expand services to approximately 100,000 additional SNAP shoppers and the opportunity to leverage an additional $2 million in Federal funding, going directly to NY farmers, small businesses, and local economies.

Double Up Food Bucks NY (DUFBNY) is a national nutrition incentive program operated by the Field & Fork Network, that matches SNAP eligible purchases $1 for $1, up to $20 per day, to purchase local fruits and vegetables. Its benefits are three-fold: a win for New York farmers selling more produce; a win for low-income families putting more healthy food on their tables; and a win for local businesses and economies. Since 2014, DUFB NY has served 110,000+ SNAP shoppers, across 30 counties, generating over $10.1 million in healthy food sales.

As inflation and food costs continue to rise, 1 in 10 New York families struggle to put food on the table, Double Up makes healthy food choices within reach. Double Up is a proven, innovative model that simultaneously delivers health and economic benefits. Double Up addresses major food insecurity challenges, like access and affordability, by partnering with stores and markets in areas of high need, to give people the power to choose their own foods and avoid having to rely on food pantries to feed their families.

“We’re thankful for Assemblyman Meeks and Assemblyman Bronson’s support and lucky to have lawmakers who champion innovative ways to make a real difference for people in their districts,” said Lisa French, Executive Director of Field & Fork Network.

“Local and organic food options are an important resource for preventing food insecurity amongst vulnerable members of our community. It is essential that those in need of support have access to affordable options for healthy and nutritious food in their neighborhoods. These investments will ensure that we provide for our low-income residents while also delivering direct support to small businesses, farmers, and the local economy. I am glad that we were successful in securing funding for this important benefit to thousands of New Yorkers. I want to thank the Field & Fork Network and my state colleagues for demonstrating their support for underserved communities, together we are making a difference throughout New York State,” says Assemblymember Demond Meeks.

“Ensuring that families, especially those with young children, have access to healthy, fresh food is imperative. We are a country of abundance and there is no reason anyone should be hungry. Food insecurity affects academic and work success, mental and physical health, and overall quality of life. With this knowledge in mind, we must do all we can to help people feed their families and do so without judgement or insecurity. As cost continue to rise and families feel increasingly stressed about how far their dollars stretch, Double Up Food Bucks is meeting the moment and is an important step forward to keeping families healthy and happy,“ says Assemblymember Harry Bronson.

Double Up Food Bucks is offered at Foodlink’s Curbside Market, a mobile market with 64 locations across Rochester and the surrounding communities. Foodlink partnered with Double Up Food Bucks in 2016 and the program has grown steadily year over year, reaching more than 17,000 Curbside Customers. Last year, the market distributed over $53,000 in Double Up Food Bucks. This has been a critical resource for families who lost an average of $159/month in SNAP benefits with the ending of COVID Emergency Allotments this March. Double Up customers consistently will earn the incentive at the beginning of the month and spend it at the end of the month when their benefits have run out. A strong indicator that people rely on this program to fill a food gap.

“The Double Up Food Bucks program has allowed our Curbside Market to stretch our customers’ food budgets even further for the past 7 years, encouraging the purchase of fresh fruits and vegetables in communities where diet-related illnesses are prevalent,” said Julia Tedesco, President & CEO of Foodlink. “We are grateful that state funding, championed by Assemblymember Meeks, will allow this critical program to expand even further in the year ahead.”

Since the program launched in 2014, demand has increased year over year; participation grew 107% in the last year alone. The State’s $2 million dollar investment will mean the program can serve more SNAP shoppers and greatly expand participating locations. The funding also allows the program to scale services and distribute the dollars more equitably through partnerships with large grocery stores, such as Tops Markets, and integration with SNAP online grocery providers. Field & Fork Network is dedicated to supporting New York farmers and making fresh, local food accessible to all New Yorkers.

“Double Up Food Bucks has been a unifier from the start,” said Lisa French, Executive Director, Field & Fork Network. “It brings together farmers and families. It brings together communities. And as we’ve seen again this year, it brings together legislators from both sides of the aisle. We look forward to continuing and deepening our partnership with the state.”

GusNIP (USDA’s Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program) Year 3 Impact Report Released

The Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program (GusNIP) Year 3 Impact Findings report was developed by the Gretchen Swanson Center for Nutrition in collaboration with Fair Food Network and U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The impact report presents the findings that the program has had on projects across the nation, spanning September 1, 2023 to August 31, 2022.

GusNIP, a USDA-funded program that distributes financial incentives and prescriptions for fruits and vegetables to consumers with low income, increases participants access to healthy foods. GusNIP aims to increase food and nutrition security while contributing to local economies and improving food systems in the US. The Gretchen Swanson Center for Nutrition leads the national evaluation through its Nutrition Incentive Program Training, Technical Assistance, Evaluation, and Information Center (NTAE).

Highlights of the findings include:

  • 73% of federal funds ($30.5 million) were distributed as incentives for FVs to people with low income living in the U.S. This proportion was similar to Y2 (75%) and higher than Y1 (68%).
  • 3,608 food retail outlets and clinics offered incentives in Y3, nearly doubling the Y2 number (1,959). Of these, 3,057 were GusNIP-funded and 1,308 were GusCRR-funded.
  • On average, NI sites were in communities where 14.1% of the population earned an income below the federal poverty level. PPR sites were in communities where 14.8% of the population earned an income below the federal poverty level. Both are higher than the national average of 11.4%.
  • GusNIP program evaluation enables grantees to collect important data and receive personalized support to modify and improve future programming.

Furthermore, GusNIP grantees allocated a substantial proportion of their budgets to direct incentives (73%), reached an estimated 148,000+ participants each month, and operated in communities with higher poverty rates than average. For full details about the report and their findings, visit GusNIP NTAE Y3 Impact Findings | Nutrition Incentive Hub.

New York GusNIP Project Leading Way Nation’s First Automated Integration of a Nutrition Incentive + SNAP Online

Field & Fork Network, a New York State nonprofit that connects communities to innovative solutions that foster a sustainable food system, and, Grocerist, which makes e-commerce profitable for grocers with the first and only grocery-specific e-commerce solution built on Shopify, announced today that they have partnered to make New York non-profit The Hub on the Hill the first grocer in the nation to roll out an automated online solution for Double Up Food Bucks NY. Double Up Food Bucks NY helps SNAP recipients stretch their benefits by matching SNAP dollars spent on fresh fruits and vegetables, doubling their impact. The program is available in 25 states, and this is the first automated, scalable solution that other grocers can leverage to make local healthy foods more affordable and accessible.

“Food prices are escalating rapidly, and the Double Up Food Bucks program is a fantastic resource for increasing SNAP recipients’ access to fresh, healthy foods,” said Jeff Anders, Co-founder and CEO of Grocerist. “We’re proud to be working with Field & Fork Network on this important project, which provides a national model for how to implement nutrition incentives and SNAP together online.”

The Hub on the Hill (the Hub) is known for applying innovative technology to benefit its customers. In January, the Hub worked with Grocerist and partner Forage to become the first food hub in the nation to accept SNAP EBT payments online. Now, SNAP recipients shopping online at the Hub will see Double Up Food Bucks NY automatically applied to their online account for their produce purchases -immediately redeemable for discounts on any future produce purchases.

Food insecurity rates across the North Country, which encompasses a geographically large and rural part of the state, are around 13%; significantly higher than the statewide rate of 9.6%, and accessing fresh food is even harder in rural communities where there may not be a grocery store for 30 miles. “When we launched SNAP Online, we knew that was just the first step,” said Lindsay Willemain, Executive Director of The Hub on the Hill. “Getting Double Up Food Bucks NY online was an obvious next one and being able to use this incentive-and take advantage of the Hub’s home delivery service-will help make fresh foods accessible and affordable. With the end of SNAP emergency allotments, it feels even more important to have this incentive available to our customers now.”

“Healthy food incentive programs like Double Up Food Bucks NY are great for families, grocers and our local communities,” said Lisa French, Co-founder and Executive Director of Field & Fork Network. “When families save money on food, they can use it for other needs. These reinvestments in communities also help our local economies. We’re excited to roll this out with The Hub on the Hill and Grocerist, because e-commerce is becoming an important avenue for increasing access to healthy food in our communities.”

“The needs of poor and working people have historically been left out of the local food movement. For the Hub to realize its mission to support and strengthen the local food system here in the North Country, it must consider the needs of everyone involved in that food system—consumers and producers alike. Programs like the Double Up match program area powerful way to achieve this. People using SNAP are able to stretch their benefits twice as far on fruits and vegetables while the farmers who grew them are still making the full amount. This makes a real difference in this moment of increased food prices, increased costs of production, and the simultaneous decrease in SNAP allowances,” said a Hub Customer and SNAP Shopper.

Grocerist and Field & Fork Network are already actively working to identify other New York grocers for similar projects, helping them implement both SNAP and Double Up Food Bucks programs online.

The National Grocers Association Foundation Technical Assistance Center (NGAF TA Center), a partner of the Nutrition Incentive Hub, provided technical assistance services for this project. “While nutrition incentive programs are beneficial to customers and local communities, they are advantageous to the stores operating them as well, but independent grocers don’t always have the resources required to extend these programs online,” said Josh Anderegg, project director for the NGAF TA Center. “The food distribution system is incredibly complex, however, working together, such as in the case with Grocerist, Field & Fork Network, and Hub on the Hill,to provide an automated model can help to make important incentive programs easy and scalable for customers and retailers to participate in across the nation.”

“This innovative collaboration is making it easier for New Yorkers to access fresh and healthy fruits and vegetables while increasing the purchasing power of their SNAP benefits,” said Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance Commissioner Daniel W. Tietz. “We are grateful to Field & Fork Network, Hub on the Hill, and Grocerist for making this happen and look forward to this model being replicated across the state as it can benefit additional SNAP recipients, retailers and communities.”

“The partnership between Field & Fork Network, Hub on the Hill, and Grocerist is an exciting innovation that makes locally grown fruits and vegetables more affordable through the Double Up Food Bucks program and more accessible by offering online SNAP purchasing and home delivery to low-income residents in rural communities,” said Erica Raml, Director of Technical Assistance & Innovation, Nutrition Incentive Hub.

All SNAP recipients are eligible for the Double Up Food Bucks NY program -to learn more, visit www.doubleupnys.com.

About Hub on the Hill

The Hub on the Hill is a nonprofit food hub working to strengthen local supply chains, expand access to nutritious, local food and create regenerative systems in order to support the land and people that help sustain us all. The Hub delivers farm fresh, local food to the doorsteps of individuals, retailers, and institutions like schools from the Canadian Border to the Capital Region every week. https://www.thehubonthehill.org/

About Double Up Food Bucks NY

Double Up Food Bucks is a nationwide nutrition incentive model, administered by Field & Fork Network, servicing millions of low-income SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) users with a dollar-for-dollar match to increase affordability and access to fresh healthy foods at farmers markets, CSAs, farm stands, mobile markets, and grocery stores. In New York State, Double Up has contributed to 5.2 million pounds of healthy food sales to over 100,000 customers, at more than 220 sites spanning 29 counties. To learn more about Double Up Food Bucks and a complete list of participating sites, please visit the program website and social media sites, or call 1-800-682-5016. www.doubleupnys.com

About National Grocers Association Foundation Technical Assistance Center

The NGA Foundation is the 501(c)3 nonprofit arm of the National Grocers Association. The Foundation provides independent retailers with tools to develop more effective recruiting programs, enhance retention efforts and bolster professional leadership development opportunities for employers. One program of NGAF is the grant funded Technical Assistance Center which provides education and resources on nutrition incentive projects, particularly those funded through the USDA Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program (GusNIP). For more information, visit www.ngafoundation.org

About Grocerist

Grocerist makes e-commerce profitable for grocers, with the first and only grocery-specific e-commerce solution built on Shopify, the world’s largest e-commerce platform. Grocerist gives merchants an e-commerce store at their own URL with all the functionality offered by their largest competitors, pick/pack technology that reduces store operating costs, a national delivery partner, control over pickup/delivery fees, low credit-card processing fees, white-glove guidance through the online SNAP application, and ongoing email, search and social media marketing support. Grocerist’s mission is to help the independent grocer use online to drive profit -both online and in-store. Learn more at www.grocerist.com

For a complete list of participating Double Up sites and hours of operation, visit www.doubleupnys.com/location

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Fighting hunger, high prices amid SNAP benefit decrease

Fighting hunger, high prices amid SNAP benefit decrease

Inflation has been hitting wallets hard, especially when it comes to food. 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates Americans are spending nearly 12 percent more on food each month than they were a year ago. According to federal labor data, grocery inflation picked up in January even as prices in the U.S. fell in other industries from the previous month. 

For the 2.8 million New Yorkers who rely on federal assistance, things are about to go from bad to worse. Starting in March, every household that receives Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, benefits will begin to receive at least $95 less a month. Household size and income may result in an even larger decrease with some families receiving nearly $300 less per month. 

The change comes as the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s temporary SNAP Emergency Allotment benefits — provided since early on during the pandemic to address food insecurity — expire at the end of the February.  In just a few days, eligible households will only receive regular monthly SNAP benefits. 

“That is a pretty serious hit to the family budget,” said Molly Nicol, CEO, Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York, who anticipates a dramatic increase in the number of neighbors seeking food assistance as the emergency allotments end. 

Roughy 1.8 million New Yorkers are facing hunger — an individual-level physiological condition that may result from food insecurity, as defined by the USDA. Nearly 600,000 are children, according to Feeding America, a nationwide network of more than 200 food banks that feed more than 46 million Americans.

During the pandemic, the Regional Food Bank saw a large increase in those seeking help. It went from distributing 38 million pounds of food per year pre-COVID to 55.8 million pounds of food at the height of the pandemic. The food bank is now at about 50 million pounds per year.

“This means that hard working folks are finding it difficult to feed their families” Nicol said. “Additionally, it means that the Food Bank is also experiencing increased expenses associated with meeting the needs in our 23-county region.”

Food bank CEOs from the Northeast are meeting with USDA representatives in early March to advocate for more food donations and funding for Universal School Meals across the state. They are hoping to convince the federal government to increase SNAP benefits to what they were at the height of the pandemic, Nicol said. 

“The end of SNAP Emergency Allotments will hasten a hunger cliff for many New Yorkers,” said Krista Hesdorfer, MPA, government relations manager for Hunger Solutions New York, a statewide nonprofit dedicated to alleviating hunger in New York. 

This is a federal change, and local social services districts do not have control over it, Hesdorfer said. However, those who do receive SNAP benefits can report any changes — loss of income, increased housing costs, child support payments or allowable medical expenses —  to their local department of social services, which could result in an increase in normal monthly SNAP benefits, she said.

There are also programs available that enhance SNAP benefits, especially when used at farmers markets. Double Up Food Bucks NY, a program of the Field & Fork Network, has become a model for communities across the country. 

The Field & Fork Double Up Food Bucks NY program aims to connect communities throughout the state with sustainable food options by matching EBT or food stamp dollars spent on fruits and vegetables, up to $20 per day. The program provides a $1 to $1 match on SNAP eligible fruit and vegetable purchases at farmers markets, farm stands and select grocers throughout the state, including Honest Weight Food Co-op,  Schenectady Green Market, Can Stop Redemption in Troy, Capital Roots Mobile Markets and West Hill Farmers Market.

“When you couple (the expiration of extended benefits) with the current economic conditions, many low-income families will struggle to fill that gap. Double Up can be a part of the solution and help fill the gap with healthy locally grown produce,” said Lisa French, co-founder and executive director at Field & Fork Network. “Doubling the current $2 million funding to $4 million means the program can provide a critical resource for these families.”

To date, more than $8 million SNAP Double Up dollars have been spent on fresh produce to help alleviate food insecurity. The benefits extend beyond consumers. Purchases support more than 400 farmers who participate in the program. And, roughly $2.8 million SNAP and Double Up dollars have been spent at stores throughout the state.  

In addition to Double Up Food Bucks, there are programs that help New Yorkers put fresh food on the table. Low income seniors and those receiving WIC benefits may be eligible to receive New York State Farmers’ Market Nutrition Programs coupons that can be used at participating farmers markets and farm stands. SNAP-to-Market is another program that distributes FreshConnect Checks in addition to the SNAP benefit. For every $5 in SNAP benefits a customer exchanges for wooden tokens, the manager may issue a $2 FreshConnect Check to be used on any SNAP eligible food item.

The Action Research Collaborative at Cornell partners with Field & Fork Network to expand ‘Double Up’ nutrition incentive program across New York State

Cornell’s Action Research Collaborative (ARC) is partnering with Field & Fork Network to evaluate the impact of the Double Up Food Bucks NY program on families that experience food insecurity in New York.

The Double Up Food Bucks NY program, launched in 2014, is the only statewide nutrition incentive program that provides a dollar-for-dollar match on each purchase of fresh produce for New York Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients. The program also creates new economic opportunities for small and mid-sized New York farmers, since retailers offering Double Up Food Bucks are required to provide a certain percentage of locally sourced produce.

Generating sustainable solutions to food insecurity is one of ARC’s priorities, according to Tashara M. Leak, assistant professor in the Division of Nutritional Sciences (College of Human Ecology) and co-director of ARC. Leak’s research and ARC’s partnership with Field & Fork Network will also continue its mission of supporting action research projects that bring together researchers, community members and policymakers.

“Double Up is a proven intervention to addressing food insecurity and alleviating the burden of purchasing high-cost produce on more than 40,000 families in upstate New York. Also, more than ever, underserved New Yorkers need access to healthy food options to improve nutrition and health.” says Leak, who is co-principal investigator on the project.

At first, Field & Fork Network launched Double Up Food Bucks NY at just seven farmers markets across the western New York region. Now, with the help of several partners and community organizations, Field & Fork Network has expanded Double Up Food Bucks NY to serve 29 counties through farmer’s markets and stands, co-ops, and even retail locations. With a total of $8.4 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program grant and private funding, Double Up Food Bucks NY has reached over 100,000 SNAP shoppers and their families and supplied more than $2.1 million to underserved NY families.

“At our core we’ve always wanted to look for new innovative ideas on how to improve the food system,” says Lisa French, co-founder and executive director of Field & Fork Network. “When we were introduced to Double Up Food Bucks in 2013, we knew this was a program worth bringing to our community. Rarely do you encounter a program that has benefits for so many: low-income consumers can afford more healthy nutritious foods, local farmers see more money in their pockets, and more federal food assistance dollars go back into the local economy. With ARC, we have the opportunity to better understand our program’s impact across the state.”

Field & Fork Network credits its many partners, such as the American Heart Association (AHA), for the program’s success. In 2020, the need for nutrition programs that decrease barriers to affordability and accessibility became even more apparent. COVID-19 greatly exacerbated issues of food insecurity—particularly for the state’s already vulnerable residents—due to rising levels of unemployment, school closures and general food and supply shortages. The program demand nearly doubled in 2020 and has seen steady growth since.

Now, the program has potential to reach 27 percent of new SNAP customers outside of New York City by 2026. To achieve this, Field & Fork Network and ARC’s Evaluation Unit are exploring innovative ways to increase program participation and leverage additional federal funding. It is estimated that Double Up Food Bucks NY will be able to quadruple the number of people served in New York state with continued federal support.

The Action Research Collaborative’s Evaluation Unit specializes in collecting data to evaluate the impact of initiatives. The Evaluation Unit, led by ARC’s co-directors, and supported by two postdoctoral fellows, Zeynab Jouzi and Ibukun Owoputi, and a research coordinator, will conduct interviews with Double Up NY stakeholders to better understand the landscape for SNAP recipients and farmers in the state to measure the success of Double Up’s implementation and identify new opportunities for growth.

“Growing the Double Up program to serve more New Yorkers requires a more holistic understanding of the actors in the food system—SNAP recipients, farmers, grocers—and how they are all affected by different elements of the system,” says Neil Lewis, Jr., assistant professor in the Department of Communication at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS), and ARC co-director. “The Action Research Collaborative’s partnership with Field & Fork Network will help to grow our collective knowledge about the factors that affect food insecurity in New York State, and grow that knowledge in ways that can be translated into action to improve food security in our state. We hope our collaboration will decrease the barriers to purchasing fresh, local produce through innovative methods that especially ease the burden for low-income families.”