WICHITA — Beginning in January, the Kansas Health Foundation (KHF) will support a program to bring healthy food to families in need and funnel dollars to local farmers and economies.

According to a release, KHF’s board of directors approved a grant of more than $1.9 million to enhance the Double Up Heartland Collaborative’s efforts to expand Kansas’s existing Double Up Food Bucks program. This program will assist SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) individuals and families so they may afford fresh produce by offering incentives at participating Kansas grocery stores and farmers markets.

“KHF is proud to support this program expansion, which will enable vulnerable Kansans to obtain what most of us in the nation’s breadbasket take for granted – reliable access to nutritious food to support a healthy lifestyle,” KHF president and CEO Reggie Robinson said in the release. “Expanding the state’s Double Up Food Bucks program will not only bring more healthy food to families in need, it will also support Kansas farmers and strengthen local economies.”

The Double Up Food Bucks program doubles the value of the United States Department of Agriculture’s SNAP benefits spent at participating farmers’ markets and grocery stores, creating three-fold benefits: Low-income families bring home healthy food, local farmers gain new customers and capital, and more food dollars stay in the local economy, the release said.

Through this 3-year initiative, Mid-America Regional Council (MARC) – a key partner in the collaborative – will work to implement the Double Up Food Bucks programs in at least 47 farmers markets and 40 grocery stores in Kansas and in the Kansas City metro area by 2022. The collaborative will also raise program awareness by reaching out to approximately 30,000 SNAP recipients and community partners where the program is offered.

In 2020, the collaborative will focus on implementing the incentive program in 67 outlets in 23 counties in Kansas and the Kansas City metro area, the release said. These target counties, which have limited access to affordable, nutritious food includes Allen, Atchison, Cherokee, Crawford, Douglas, Geary, Harvey, Johnson, Leavenworth, Lyon, Mitchell, Neosho, Republic, Riley, Saline, Sedgwick, Seward, Shawnee and Wyandotte counties.

MARC will recruit and contract with local partners across Kansas, such as: K-State Research and Extension to support Double Up Food Bucks implementation in local grocery stores/farmers markets; and the Kansas Rural Center to recruit local producers to grow fruits and vegetables marketed for SNAP recipients.

The collaborative will also apply in 2020 for a USDA Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive grant, which (if awarded) will expand the reach of Double Up Food Bucks and will require a dollar-for-dollar match, the release said. KHF has allocated $872,500 of the total grant to address this match requirement if Kansas is awarded the federal funds.

With the additional USDA funding, the collaborative plans to expand the Double Up Food Bucks program in 2021 and 2022 to 50 additional grocery stores in Kansas and the Kansas City metro area (10 in eastern/southeastern Kansas, 17 in the Kansas City, Kan. metro area counties and 23 counties in the Kansas City metro area on the Missouri side). Seven additional Kansas counties would be served in this expansion (Franklin, Greenwood, Labette, Miami, Montgomery, Wilson and Woodson counties).

Community foundations will also be incentivized to bring the program to Kansans in their areas. Up to $150,000 will be used to leverage dollar-for-dollar matches in five new participating community foundations each year at $50,000 for up to three years.

Residents who know a site in their community that might be a good fit for the Double Up Food Bucks program should contact both MARC to start the application process and their local community foundation to request matching funds. KHF (through MARC) would then match that commitment.

MARC will use an additional $150,000 for technology solutions to mitigate point-of-sale issues in local grocery stores and electronic benefits transfer (EBT) machines – the terminal where recipients use their SNAP benefits – for farmers markets.

The University of Kansas Medical Center-KC will receive $180,000 to evaluate the Double Up Food Bucks expansion efforts in Kansas.