On a fall day at the Montclair Farmers’ Market, a customer walked up to the market managers’ tent with a $5 bill. But it wasn’t your average $5 bill – it was a Good Food Bucks coupon, part of the Double Bucks program that allows federal food benefit recipients to buy twice as much local produce with their federal food dollars at the Montclair Farmers’ Market, funded by the Partners for Health Foundation.
This customer had found the bill on the ground, and he knew exactly what it was. He had used his own Good Food Bucks earlier in the season to buy fresh produce, and wanting to make sure that the original owner had the same opportunity to buy fresh food as him, he asked the market staff to help him return it to its rightful owner. Before leaving, he remarked, “I know how important these are when you need them.”
In 2011, City Green, a food access and urban farming non-profit based in Clifton, launched the Good Food Bucks program. It allowed people with SNAP or WIC food benefits to buy fresh and organic fruits and vegetables grown right up the street at City Green Farms in Paterson and Clifton. Since its inception, the program has doubled the value of Good Food Buck coupons, so $5 at the local grocery store turns into $10 at a City Green farm stand. Since its founding, the program has expanded rapidly. In 2019 alone, City Green distributed 40,000 pounds of fresh produce to nearly 6,000 customers at 17 locations. To expand the program, City Green launched the Garden State Good Food Network, which brought the program to farmers’ markets across the state. Through City Green’s funding, training, and marketing support, dozens of farmers now sell their produce to federal food benefit recipients, including the Montclair Farmers’ Market, “Our goal is for all SNAP and WIC shoppers in New Jersey to be able to shop at a farmer’s market near their community, and access the same local, high quality produce that their neighbors do” said City Green Executive Director Jennifer Papa.
At the Montclair Farmers’ Market, less than twenty minutes after the man returned the lost Double Bucks coupon, an elderly woman approached the tent asking if anyone had found any bucks at the market. She had lost hers while shopping, and was worried about not being able to afford all the groceries on her list. When the farm stand attendants handed her the returned bucks, her face lit up in joy. “It was a simple moment,” said Adrian Diaz, the Double Bucks Coordinator at the Montclair Farmers’ Market, “but it was very moving.”
“Juicy peaches, glistening cherries, just-picked corn and rainbow-colored carrots are only some of the enticing, fresh fruits and vegetables on offer every Saturday at The Montclair Farmers’ Market. The market is enjoyed by thousands of residents and visitors each year, and thanks to the markets’ Double Bucks Program, shoppers of all ages and incomes are welcome to partake of the bounty. Hundreds of our neighbors who otherwise would not be able to shop at the market utilize this program each month. Many tell us how much they now look forward to their shopping experience at our market, thanks to City Green and the support of the Parnters for Health Foundation, The Montclair Farmers’ Market is thrilled to offer affordable access to nutritious, fresh, locally-grown food to seniors and low-income families across our area, while supporting our farmers and local economy.” – Adrian Diaz, Double Bucks Coordinator, Montclair Farmers Market”