The Be Well Collaborative, University of Nebraska Extension, and the Kearney Area Farmers Market have been partnering the past years to increase access to local fresh fruits and vegetables. “In 2017, the Be Well Collaborative identified access to fresh fruit and vegetable at local Food Pantries and farmers markets to be a key priority area for our work,” said Bryce Abbey, Employee Health and Wellness Director at University of Nebraska Kearney and Be Well Collaborative Member. Abbey said, “The Be Well Collaborative met a lot of road blocks when trying to get the Kearney Area Farmers Market access to accept SNAP benefits, but the Collaborative believed strongly in the mission.” The Collaborative continued inviting other partners with similar interest to join the conversation.
Candace “Candi” Benge, Kearney Area Farmers Market board chair, had been attending the Be Well Collaborative meetings sharing what needs the Farmers Market was experiencing. The Be Well Collaborative was able to connect partners like, Vanessa Wielenga, UNL Extension and coordinator of the state’s DUFB program, Margaret Milligan, Buy Fresh Buy Local Nebraska and funders like private donors, the Kearney Area Community Foundation, and CHI Health which allowed the Kearney Area Farmers Market the support needed to start accepting SNAP at the market.
After the successful implementation of SNAP, the partners looked for opportunities to bring the Double Up Food Bucks program to Kearney. Amanda Shoemaker, Be Well member, gathered necessary (SNAP) data to begin the DUFB process, and Candi completed a DUFB application. Carol Schwarz, Nebraska Extension and Be Well member, submitted a DUFB grant to assist with marketing needs and supplies for tasting demonstration events at the market.
“This is an exciting accomplishment as it’s(Double Up Food Bucks) only been available in Lincoln & Omaha. Having this program helps put more fresh fruits and vegetables on many people’s plates while supporting farmers and boosting our local economies. It’s a win-win-win,” said Martha Marfileño, Wellness Coordinator of Buffalo County Community Partners.
McKenna Patsios, UNK Nutrition Intern, was hired with support from Abbey to help at the market with an information booth and assistance on activities related to SNAP and DUFB. Braydon Conell, vendor of Canal Soaps, was hired as the KAFM marketing intern, with assistance from a CHI Health grant, to assist with marketing activities for the market.
The Be Well Collaborative continues to work with UNL Extension and other partners to design outreach material in English and Spanish to continue their mission of providing access for all community residents to local produce.
Nebraska Double Up Food Bucks is a public-private partnership that incentivizes SNAP recipients to purchase more fresh fruits and vegetables from local farmers and retailers for the triple win. The Double Up Food Bucks program began in Nebraska at two farmers markets, one mobile market and one grocery store in 2017 and has benefited more than 700 low-income families since then.