Written by Anne Harney, AmeriCorps Summer VISTA Outreach Coordinator
When Marie, a Missoula resident of nearly 20 years, was forced to leave her job because of health issues this past winter, she turned to SNAP benefits to help put food on her table. Thankfully, applying for SNAP was an easy process. “If I was able to work, I would,” she says. “That’s what I want to be doing, but I can’t. SNAP benefits were there for me when I needed them.”
After looking online and discovering that the two farmers markets in Missoula, the Missoula Farmers Market and the Clark Fork Market, accept SNAP benefits, Marie headed to the market one Saturday morning. There, she was excited to discover that she could stretch her SNAP dollars using the Double SNAP Dollars program. Double SNAP Dollars helps food-insecure Montanans afford more fresh, local produce by doubling the purchasing power of their SNAP benefits. For every dollar spent on SNAP-eligible foods at participating farmers markets or farm shares, SNAP recipients receive an extra dollar to spend on fresh, local produce.
But with little exposure to different kinds of vegetables growing up, the vast array of fresh produce available at the market was a little overwhelming. With some helpful suggestions from her friend Bonnie (and CFAC’s Executive Director!), Marie began using her Double SNAP benefits to try some new vegetables. And to her surprise, she liked them! She has particularly enjoyed experimenting with zucchini and all different kinds of lettuce and leafy greens. When she’s not sure how to prepare a new vegetable, she searches for recipes and cooking videos online.
Before she knew about the program, Marie didn’t take many risks when shopping for food. “When you aren’t sure if you like something, it’s really risky to spend some of your precious funds on it, even if you know it’s healthy. Double SNAP has given me the opportunity to try new fruits and vegetables that I otherwise wouldn’t have. I’ve doubled the number of veggies that I know I like since using Double SNAP.” Thanks to Double SNAP, Marie has increased her intake of fresh produce, learned new cooking skills, and tried something new almost every week.
Double SNAP Dollars has also helped Marie stretch her dollars for those times when her SNAP benefits run low. “DSD helps me get through the month, and with healthy food.” She says that she notices that she feels better and has more energy since increasing her vegetable intake.
Additionally, for Marie, sometimes the crowds at the market can be a bit overwhelming and intimidating. Now that she has gone to the market a few times to use Double SNAP, she is starting to recognize vendors, and she feels more comfortable chatting and asking them questions. “The world of food is one that I don’t know much about, but because of Double SNAP and my experiences at the market, I feel like I am on the path to learning more about food and agriculture.” She now looks forward to going to the market and getting out into the community, and her increased access to healthy produce has made her more excited about food and cooking.
To anyone who is unsure about going to a farmers market or using Double SNAP, Marie says to give it a try just once. “That’s what I did. And now I go nearly every week because I don’t want to miss out on accessing this benefit.”
Thanks, Marie, for sharing your story with Double SNAP Dollars! To see if you are eligible for SNAP benefits, please visit: https://dphhs.mt.gov/hcsd/SNAP or contact the SNAP Outreach Coordinator at Montana Food Bank Network.
To learn more about Double SNAP Dollars and to find recipes for all of your delicious produce, visit: http://www.doubledollarsmt.com/