BOONE — Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture is in the midst of its first ever Double Up Food Bucks Fundraising Week from March 27 to April 3.

The week will include opportunities to learn more about the Double Up Food Bucks program, how it supports local farmers, new college student SNAP eligibility policies and volunteer opportunities.

Double Up Food Bucks is a healthy food incentive program that doubles the value of federal nutrition benefits — such as SNAP/EBT, WIC Farmers’ Market Vouchers and Senior Farmers’ Market Vouchers — when people shop at the local farmers’ markets and Food Hub.

The program helps families have healthier choices, supports local farmers and keeps food dollars in the community. In 2020 alone, 228 families were reached by the program, and over $23,000 were doubled. That’s more than every other year of the program combined, and in 2021 Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture hopes to reach even more community members with this important program.

Due to COVID-19, even more community members have qualified for federal nutrition benefits over the last year. This includes programs like P-EBT for families with children who qualify for free and reduced school meals.

BRWIA’s Double Up Food Bucks & Farmers’ Market Manager Ellie Mullis stated that “One mother came to the farmers’ market last year with a P-EBT card and told me that she had actually donated to the Double Up program before and didn’t think that she would ever use it. At first she felt guilty for now using it, but she was happy to participate once she learned that anyone with a P-EBT card could participate no questions asked. She was so happy to be a part of a community that helped people buy more local food and supported local farmers.”

Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture seeks to raise $5,000 to support the program for the summer growing season.

Throughout the week of fundraising, community members can learn more about Double Up Food Bucks by talking with BRWIA staff at the Food Hub from noon-6 p.m. Wednesday, Friday 4 p.m.-6 p.m. outside of F.A.R.M. Cafe, at the Winter Farmers’ Market 9 a.m.-noon on Saturday as well as social media all week.

Double Up relies on support from community members to power the program, including High Country Food Hub customers who contribute to the program each week. In 2020, more than 110 Food Hub customers added a donation to Double Up with their weekly order.

For Double Up Week, one Food Hub customer has agreed to match up to $1,500 of individual donations to help reach the $5,000 goal.

Double Up Food Bucks is funded by a combination of grants and caring community members. Community members can donate to the cause at brwia.org/doubleup.html#donate. They can also host their own DUFB fundraising event, spread the word about DUFB week on social media or volunteer through the ambassadors program. More information about the ambassadors program can be found at brwia.org/doubleup.html#ambassador.

“I love the Double Up Food Bucks program because everyone deserves to have access to fresh, local food,” Mullis said. “It is so important that as we work to make Farmers’ Markets for all, we include those who may not otherwise be able to afford to shop local. Being able to support local food and farmers helps us to build community relationships and resilience, which makes DUFB a win-win-win for families, farmers and the local economy.”

Formed in 2003, Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture is a women-led organization that builds an equitable, sustainable High Country local food system by supporting producers and cultivating community connections that educate, inspire and increase the demand for local food. To learn more about BRWIA, please visit www.brwia.org.

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