How 'Double Bucks' For Food Stamps Conquered Capitol Hill
November 10, 2014 3:01 PM ET
The federal government is about to put $100 million behind a simple idea: doubling the value of SNAP benefits — what used to be called food stamps — when people use them to buy local fruits and vegetables.
This idea did not start on Capitol Hill. It began as a local innovation at a few farmers' markets. But it proved remarkably popular and spread across the country.
"It's so simple, but it has such profound effects both for SNAP recipients and for local farmers," says Mike Appell, a vegetable farmer who sells his produce at a market in Tulsa, Okla.
The idea first surfaced in 2005 among workers at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. They were starting a campaign to get people to eat more fresh produce.
"I think we were trying to confront the idea that healthy foods, [like] fresh fruits and vegetables, are not affordable," says Candace Young, who was director of the department's nutrition programming at the time. (Young now works for The Food Trust in Philadelphia.)