Innovative programs provide much-needed services

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By State Senator Jim Merritt

Eating healthy is a necessity in today’s world. States are exploring and providing new ways to offer better nutrition in their public assistance programs.

Sen. Jim Merritt represents Fishers in the Indiana State Senate where he has served for 24 years. You may contact him by phone at 232-9400 or by email at Senator.Merritt@iga.in.gov.

Sen. Jim Merritt represents Fishers in the Indiana State Senate where he has served for 24 years. You may contact him by phone at 232-9400 or by email at Senator.Merritt@iga.in.gov.

Two notable examples are right here in the Midwest. Fresh Bucks in Indiana and Double Up Food Bucks (Double Up) in Michigan, provide a tremendous service to low-income families and local farmers.

Fresh Bucks is located in Indianapolis, and strives to connect Hoosier farmers to new customers by promoting healthy eating.

Participants tell Fresh Bucks how much money they want to spend on fruits, vegetables or other eligible products, then swipe their Hoosier Works EBT card for that amount to receive tokens worth up to $20.

The program is funded through the Indiana State Department of Agriculture Specialty Crop Block Grant, the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration and the Indiana State Department of Health.

Michigan’s Double Up is a statewide program dedicated to constructing a more sustainable system to support family farmers, low-income households and local economies.

Double Up was created by Oran Hesterman, founder of the national non-profit Fair Food Network. The Network helps to implement programs and brings people together to produce ideas and share resources.

How does it work? Food stamp recipients receive a SNAP card to use at participating farmer’s markets, food trucks or grocery stores. When $20 is spent on eligible items with a card, an additional $20 is given to spend on produce.

According to a recent study, 93 percent of Double Up participants say they are eating more fruits and vegetables, and making healthier food choices.

In just five years, Double Up has made a positive impact on more than 200,000 families. Local partners and statewide efforts have been key to funding the program, and making it a success. Double Up food bucks are available at more than 150 locations across Michigan.

Over time, I would like to see Indiana’s Fresh Bucks gain more popularity and form partnerships statewide.

Every Hoosier should have access to healthy meals and I plan to continue advocating for a more nutritious food system here in Indiana.

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