An additional $1.4 million in federal, state, and private sector funding is helping to expand a fresh produce program for Kentucky’s low income families.
An expansion of the three-year-old Double Dollars program, announced Tuesday, makes it possible for families in 22 counties to double their purchasing power at participating farmers markets and retail stores statewide.
John Wyatt, with the Community Farm Alliance, found his family in need of assistance ten years ago. He believes Double Dollars can greatly change family dining dynamics.
“I had one woman to say that she actually didn’t know what a piece of lettuce was for if it wasn’t on a hamburger from a fast food chain. Now, this happened just a month ago,” said Wyatt. “This is somebody now who’s cooking three or four course meals on her own stove for her family with food that she buys from our market.”
Wellcare, a Medicaid managed care firm, supports double dollars. Shannon Jones is senior director of health services. “When someone’s worried about how they’re going to put food on the table, they’re not thinking about a scheduled mammogram or preventative health services,” Jones said. Jones says the highest number of calls to Wellcare come from people seeking assistance with their next meal. She says there were 2200 such calls last year. Britney Johnson worked one of the market’s tents Tuesday. A single mom, Johnson says she has participated in the state supplemental nutrition assistance program, or SNAP. “It would have been really nice to have it back then to be able to double the expenditures. You worry a lot of times about what you can get nutrition value and if you go to Kroger, you can get a bag of chips a lot cheaper than you can good fruits and vegetables and now it makes a little more beneficial for people in need,” noted Johnson. Farmers Market President Jason Whitis says since 2015, $11,000 worth of produce has been sold to eligible families in Lexington. He says it’s also meant $10,000 going back to farmers. The expansion goes into effect this weekend.