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Families and individuals getting food assistance benefits can double their money to buy fresh fruits and vegetables at two Newaygo County farmers’ markets through a new TrueNorth Community Services program.

Bridge Card users can get a dollar-for-dollar match to buy produce at the Fremont and Downtown Newaygo farmers’ markets in a partnership with TrueNorth and Fair Food Network’s Double Up Food Bucks program.

To receive Double Up Food Bucks with Bridge Cards, participants must stop by the TrueNorth Food Pantry at the TrueNorth Service Center, 6308 S. Warner Avenue in Fremont. Bridge Cards are processed by TrueNorth staff on weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., with recipients receiving receive $1 of Double Up Food Bucks for every dollar spent on market tokens to buy produce at the Fremont and Newaygo farmers’ markets.

“Double Up Food Bucks assists people who don’t have enough food to eat by helping them receive nutritious food that’s essential,” said Jennifer Zimmerman, Nutrition and Senior Services Coordinator for TrueNorth. “This allows people using their Bridge Cards to get double the value to get fresh fruits and vegetables at our local farmers’ markets.”

The Fremont Farmers’ Market, operated by the Fremont Area Chamber of Commerce, is open 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays through October 5 at Market Place Pavilion on Dayton Street behind The Newaygo County Council for the Arts’ Artsplace in Fremont.  The Downtown Newaygo Farmers Market, operated by the River Country Chamber of Commerce, is open noon to 6 p.m. Fridays through August 30 at Brooks Parks on Quarterline Street behind Newaygo City Hall in Newaygo.

Zimmerman said: “This expands on the work we are already doing through the TrueNorth Food Pantry, our Food Programs, and the Feeding America West Michigan Mobile Food Pantry’s monthly visits at TrueNorth.”

The healthier-food effort seeks to assist families and individuals from low-income households receiving benefits through SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance). About 1.4 million people in Michigan rely on SNAP to feed their households, according to Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS). Bridge Cards are issued to MDHHS clients to purchase certain food products and to access cash benefits.

Double Up Food Bucks receives federal SNAP incentive funding, including a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant. Those funds are matched with private and other contributions.

Fair Food Network, an Ann Arbor-based nonprofit, created Double Up Food Bucks in 2009 to expand access to healthy food for low-income families and individuals while supporting Michigan farmers. The program has expanded from a pilot in five farmers’ markets in Detroit to more than 250 farmers’ markets, farm stands, and grocery stores across Michigan and elsewhere in the U.S.

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