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Agriculture leaders, hunger advocates promote ‘Double Dollars’ program in news conferences

Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles joined leaders of the Community Farm Alliance (CFA) and other partners on Tuesday to raise awareness of a state program that makes more fresh, local produce available to low-income Kentuckians.

Kentucky Double Dollars doubles federal SNAP, WIC, and Senior nutrition benefits at 41 participating farmers’ markets in the Commonwealth. This program is a collective effort of the CFA, Bluegrass Farm to Table, the Governor’s Office of Agricultural Policy (GOAP), the Kentucky Department of Agriculture (KDA), Passport Health Plans, and WellCare Health Plans.

“The Kentucky Double Dollars Program helps achieve one of the key goals of our Hunger Initiative – to make fresh local foods accessible to more Kentucky families,” Quarles said. “It also increases sales at Kentucky farmers’ markets, creating new income for producers. These results make it a great fit for investment from the Kentucky Agricultural Development Board. I applaud Passport, WellCare, and CFA on securing the funding to continue and expand this effective and important program.”

Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles, right, talks about Kentucky’s farmers’ markets and the Double Dollars program that helps low-income Kentuckians buy more fresh, local produce at 41 participating markets. Also pictured is Warren Beeler (left) and Martin Richards (center). (KDA photo)

Quarles and representatives of the other partner organizations held news conferences in Lexington and Louisville on Tuesday and will conduct a third news conference Thursday in Whitesburg. State leaders and hunger advocates talked about the Double Dollars program and the impact of farmers’ markets in urban as well as rural communities.

“The Double Dollars program has seen great success in reaching the Kentucky families and farmers it’s designed to reach,” said Community Farm Alliance Executive Director Martin Richards. “In previous years, we’ve seen that 25 percent of the population is coming out and benefiting from these programs — and that number grows each year. If we can continue to provide access to healthy, locally grown fruits and vegetables for families, and provide direct economic support for our hard-working farming communities, then this program will continue to make an impact that matters.”

“Farmers’ markets connect consumers to local food from local farmers. The Kentucky Agricultural Development Board is proud and excited to have played a part in the establishment of these permanent structures and partner with Community Farm Alliance to support the Double Dollars and Market Manager incentive programs,” said Warren Beeler, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Agricultural Policy. “We know there is a difference between eating out of the garden instead of from a can. It is our farmers’ markets that supply fresh, homegrown products to all.”

“Passport Health Plans’ mission is to improve the health and quality of life of our members,” said Dana Moody, director of community engagement for Passport. “The Kentucky Double Dollars Program allows our members and others to benefit from fresh produce offered at farmers’ markets. Good nutrition is a cornerstone to good health, and we are so pleased to be able to be a part of this program that not only helps our members but also the farmers across the Commonwealth.”

“The Double Dollars program enables families to double the amount of fresh fruits and vegetables they can bring home in the summer, meaning that families can actually get better food — and more of it — at the farmers’ markets than they can at the grocery store,” said Ben Orris, COO of WellCare Health Plans of Kentucky. “We know that increasing access to nutritional foods helps people to practice better, healthier habits in other aspects of their lives. Starting with making a healthier diet more accessible is the first step to helping Kentucky families champion their health.”

Quarles launched the Hunger Initiative three years ago to bring together farmers, charitable organizations, faith groups, community leaders, educators, and government entities to look for ways to reduce hunger in Kentucky. To find out more about the Hunger Initiative, go to kyagr.com/hunger.

From Kentucky Department of Agriculture

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