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Kentucky officials are celebrating the results of a program that increases access to fresh produce for low-income families. 

The “Double Dollars” program doubles the buying power when people use benefits like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program at some farmers markets and food sale locations. Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles said other states have come to Kentucky to learn about the program.

“Whether it’s in Louisville or Lexington, or rural Kentucky, the Double Dollars program is working,” Quarles said. “And it’s giving those who may need a little bit of help the ability to have access to food that otherwise they may not have access to.”

When the program began five years ago, only six farmers markets participated, but they reported 125 percent growth in sales compared to the year before. Sixteen percent of the overall sales were credited towards purchases made with federal benefits covered by Double Dollars. 

Last year, more than 10,000 people participated in the program and $91,000 in benefits was redeemed. And for the 2019 season, there are 41 farmers markets around the state taking part. About half of those are in Jefferson County. 

Elizabeth Starr with WellCare Health Plans, a Florida-based managed care company, said programs like this promote good health.

“Not only are local fruits and vegetables sometimes too costly, but processed foods — especially those high in salt, sugar and fat — are often cheaper and widely available in the communities where [limited-income families] live,” Starr said. “With Double Dollars, Kentuckians can use their federal food benefits to increase both the quantity and quality of the food by using those benefits at local farmers markets.”

Quarles said the state hopes to continue the program, which has been funded by private, state and federal dollars. For a list of participating locations, click here.

 

Kyeland Jackson is an Associate Producer for WFPL News.