We’re sharing the stories of Double Up through the eyes of farmers, families, farmers market managers, and other community members:
Nicki Passarella, Amica Farm
For one Double Up Food Bucks vendor, selling as a first-year farmer is just her latest role in the farmers market scene. Amica Farm co-owner Nicki Passarella sells at the Moreland and Woodstock Farmers Markets, but she served as a manager, staff, and volunteer of the Portland Farmers Market organization for eight years.
In 2017, Passarella decided to move higher up the production chain and step into farming herself, so she joined Zenger Farm as an intern and then founded Amica Farm as part of the East Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District’s Headwaters Incubator Program one year later.
This transition from market manager to farmer has given Passarella a broader perspective on how Double Up Food Bucks impacts local food production. As a farmer, she finds that the market manager and board who promote SNAP matching make the program successful, allowing her to provide food at a price people can afford with no extra legwork on her part.
“The bottom line is that the reason I farm is to feed my community, and assistance programs like Double Up Food Bucks make that community wider, broader, and more diverse. That’s what feeds me as a farmer,” said Passarella.
In addition to making produce affordable to those to whom it may have proven prohibitively expensive, another measure of success for Double Up Food Bucks comes in farmers’ sales numbers.
Even though, as a businessperson, Passarella would want to market to lower-income customers, she doesn’t have the capacity to do so when she’s farming full-time. When markets promote Double Up Food Bucks, her business benefits from more customers coming back to her booth week after week.
“Having repeat customers, whoever they are, feels like a beautiful thing to me, but I feel that tenfold when I have repeat customers who use SNAP. I can build the business by chit-chatting with them, and they tell me what they did with their squash, that they value these dollars, and that our produce makes them come back to market,” said Passarella.
Passarella and many other small-scale farmers want to nourish as much of their community as possible, but that goal must be supported by dollars. “It’s not sustainable to just want to feed my community,” notes Passarella, “but the extra funds from Double Up Food Bucks help the farm keep growing.”
Written by Love Jonson, Food Systems Writer and Editor
Charlie Tenenbaum, King Farmers Market shopper
You’ll find Charlie Tenenbaum most Sunday mornings at the King Farmers Market, just a few blocks from their Northeast Portland home. (As a transgender individual, Charlie uses they/them pronouns). An avid fermenter, Charlie recently picked up some kohlrabi, bok choi, and daikon radishes to make into kimchi. With the market closed for the winter, they have also squirreled away a stash of onions, delicata squash, and greens for the freezer to help hold them over until the market reopens in the spring.
Charlie relies on the Double Up Food Bucks (DUFB) program to be able to purchase produce at the farmers market. Using their Oregon Trail Card, Charlie can receive an extra $10 per week to purchase fresh fruits and veggies to help make their very limited disability payments and SNAP benefits stretch further. The produce they get at the market helps them feel healthier as they manage their chronic pain that prevents them from being fully employed.
Being able to shop at the farmers market plays an outsized role in their life. With post-traumatic stress disorder gained from relief work in post-earthquake Haiti, Charlie gets agitated in indoor supermarkets, and feels much more comfortable shopping in an outdoor venue.
Patronizing the farmers market also makes Charlie feel like they don’t have to compromise their values to feed themselves. They have a deep background in sustainability. Before they became disabled, Charlie worked on biodiversity and food justice issues through their efforts at seed libraries, CSA farms, and the Denver Botanic Gardens. They started down this path while in college, interning at a USDA seed bank working on biodiversity protection.
Charlie knows what it is like to not be able to afford the food that is best for their health or spirit. Homeless for a stretch, living out of their car, Charlie didn’t have a place to cook. They found themselves purchasing unhealthy, inexpensive, and ready to eat food that was detrimental to their health and contrary to their values.
As a result, Charlie feels a deep sense of gratitude for the Double Up Food Bucks for its positive impact on their health and spirit.
-written by Andy Fisher, Farmers Market Fund Board member
Genevieve Flanagan, Urban Acre Homestead Farm
According to Urban Acre Homestead farmer Genevieve Flanagan, a first-year vendor at the Lents International Farmers Market, many farmers growing organically can’t afford to buy the produce they sell. Given her farm’s small scale on a one-acre lot in a northeast Portland neighborhood, Double Up Food Bucks has proven a significant factor in Flanagan’s ability to make the numbers work—both for her bottom line and for her customers’.
Flanagan notes that many farmers and farm apprentices receive some type of food assistance, just like their customers at market. When small-scale farmers growing organically run into the economic reality that they have to charge more for their food than they would personally be able to pay in order to cover their production costs, Double Up Food Bucks helps them remain economically accessible to their customers in similar financial situations as them.
As a current Lents International Farmers Market vendor and a former apprentice at Zenger Farm (the organization who reinvigorated the Lents market in 2006 to build on their existing food access efforts in one of Portland’s most ethnically diverse and lowest-income neighborhoods), Flanagan knows firsthand that she’s serving folks who don’t have many other options to access fresh, local produce.
“Even in Portland, there are still parts of the city that don’t have thriving food centers where people can get produce from a coop or some of the nicer grocers downtown. They might rely more on whatever’s on sale at Fred Meyer or Safeway, so it feels really great for people to be able to have the experience of going to the farmers market, talk to farmers about how they’re growing food, and then actually be able to pay for it.”
The $2 denomination of incentives that Double Up Food Bucks uses strikes the balance between providing a meaningful amount of money for customers and allowing them flexibility, says Flanagan. Mushrooms provide a particularly illustrative example of how folks spend their Double Up Food Bucks at her booth.
Double Up Food Bucks allows people to buy what they may consider a “bonus” item—“something they may think they normally couldn’t afford but that they would really like to incorporate into their diet,” says Flanagan. But mushrooms shouldn’t be considered a bonus—Flanagan calls varieties like the shiitakes and oysters she cultivates “medicinal powerhouses.”
From mushrooms to burdock root, harukei turnips, and bouquet garni, Flanagan knows Double Up Food Bucks is helping Lents customers stretch their dollar. “It’s awesome to be at Lents selling to this audience because I know the area needs more options, and I don’t think people who want to patronize my farm would be able to do so if they did not have access to this form of payment.”
Written by Love Jonson, Food Systems Writer and Editor
image by Meaghin Kennedy
Ari Rosner, Hollywood Farmers Market
For Hollywood Farmers Market coordinator Ari Rosner, Double Up Food Bucks served as a way to extend one market’s successful SNAP matching program to a second market. In 2010, before the Double Up Food Bucks program began, the Hollywood Farmers Market in Portland began matching shoppers’ SNAP tokens up to $5 — and with the support of Farmers Market Fund, the program was able to spread to Hollywood’s sister market, the Lloyd Farmers Market.
When Hollywood Farmers Market took over management of the Lloyd Farmers Market seven years ago, Lloyd had no way to accept SNAP, let alone match it. As both markets joined the Double Up Food Bucks program, each could to offer a $10 match — double what Hollywood had been able to offer and, in total, $20 more in than Lloyd SNAP shoppers could previously use.
For the Hollywood market, a large and visible mainstay in the neighborhood, word of mouth was enough to spread awareness about matching programs. In the Lloyd district, the market had to start from scratch to get the word out, since it had very little existing engagement with low-income neighbors.
The Lloyd market targeted their outreach to public housing, senior communities, and other low-income residents in the neighborhood. Market staff visited buildings, spoke to neighbors, answered questions, and helped folks understand the different benefit programs they could use at market.
Rosner has seen roaring increases in SNAP use each year — both throughout the economic recession and, importantly, even as the economy has rebounded.
“Even with the economic recovery, there have been solid increases every year, as more people who have been left behind by the recovery are discovering that they can stretch their dwindling dollars even further by coming to the farmers market.”
Shoppers’ satisfaction with SNAP matching are backed by both informal conversations and hard numbers: the number of SNAP transactions at markets has increased by 39%, and 90% of SNAP customers reported purchasing more fruits and vegetables. In the past, some shoppers have had to eat whatever was cheapest at the grocery store, but now, Rosner’s customers tell him they can buy organic produce and make connections with farmers — things they didn’t think they’d be able to do on SNAP.
In surveys, a significant majority of SNAP shoppers say matching helps them stretch their benefit dollars later in the month, alleviating the cycle SNAP recipients face in which the fridge runs empty by before the next benefit cycle. 81% of shoppers report that DUFB has increased the amount of food in their house.
“They go hungry less, which is really what this is all about,” said Rosner.
Written by Love Jonson, Food Systems Writer and Editor
“Rising Prices Got You Down?” reads a sign that hangs at Persephone Farm’s booth to describe, in English and Spanish, the farm’s policy of offering a 20 percent discount to folks using food assistance — Supplemental Food Assistance Program (SNAP) tokens, Double Up Food Bucks, and Farm Direct Nutrition Coupons.
A mainstay at the Hollywood, Salem, and Portland State University farmers markets for nearly three decades, Persephone Farm produces seasonal, Oregon Tilth-certified organic vegetables alongside the South Santiam River in Lebanon, Oregon. Named after the goddess of the seasons, Persephone grows in accordance with the earth’s patterns, letting all plants come to fruition outside and minimizing the use of disposable plastic as much as possible.
Producing high-quality vegetables with maximum flavor and minimal ecological footprint requires additional time, care, and resources from the farm, but Double Up Food Bucks helps Persephone’s 20 percent discount go further for its customers. Cognizant that the farm’s prices have been rising on a regular schedule in accordance with wage increases, co-owner Elanor O’Brien sought to recognize the difficulties for folks on fixed incomes and offer some assistance.
The farm must charge enough for the produce to be able to pay its employees a living wage. “We don’t have a lot of leeway on that, but I understand that when someone’s on a fixed income they don’t have a lot of leeway either, so we like being able to meet them at least part of the way. We want to support that they’ve chosen to come out to the farmers market and use part of their income to choose healthy food — that makes me happy.”
The extra assistance offered by Double Up Food Bucks helps put Persephone Farm in touch with a broader population than they would otherwise be able to reach. The farmers market is a place to interact with a more diverse and even international community than vendors and shoppers may see in their own hometown or neighborhood. Some customers who have not experienced certain foods have a chance to learn about how to prepare them from farmers at market — and vice versa.
Double Up Food Bucks helps to bridge the gap between supporting living-wage jobs for farmworkers and ensuring organic produce is accessible to low-income eaters. The program benefits the farm’s economics by providing an additional percentage of gross sales, but Double Up Food Bucks comprises 100 percent of the currency used by some of Persephone’s regular customers. Notes farmer Cora Payne, “The surprise, gratitude, and smiles I get when I see folks using Double Up Food Bucks and am able to offer them a discount are often some of my favorite moments at market.”
–Written by Love JonsonShare This!