Thursday, March 6, 2014

Getting all matchy-matchy with food dollars

In hunger-relief circles these days, the key phrase is "matching funds." Or "double dollars." Or: More money for people who can't afford fresh, local food.

The double-dollar programs allow people to double their benefits by buying fresh, usually locally grown, foods. The recently passed farm bill had steep cuts in money for SNAP - the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or what we used to call food stamps - but included a provision for increasing matching funds: If people who get SNAP benefits use them to buy fresh food at qualifying markets, they can get $2 worth of food for every dollar they spend. But the idea has been kicking around the private sector for years, through nonprofit groups like Wholesome Wave.

The Atherton Market, 2140 South Blvd., is planning an event March 15 to raise money to support this kind of incentive shopping.

March Match-ness is sponsored by Friendship Gardens and Queen City Mobile Market. There will be a wine and beer bar, tastings by local chefs, games and a "chefs' bracket" to vote on the best dish of the night. Tickets are $5, with more chances to donate throughout the event.

Money raised will be used by Friendship Gardens to double purchases made with SNAP benefits at the Atherton Market, Queen City Mobile Market and Friendship Gardens To-Go.

Farmers markets advocates have wrestled for years with how to get more fresh, local food into the hands of people who live in underserved urban neighborhoods, AKA food deserts. That's starting to happen, thanks to double-up programs that make farmers markets more affordable options.

If you're interested in that, grab a ticket here or at the door, and put it on your calendar for 5-8 p.m. March 15. Get more details here or here.