Early strong support for new FoodShare initiative

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Sunday was the first day for the new MadMarket Double Dollars Program.

The program aims to help people enrolled in the FoodShare Wisconsin program better access Madison’s array of Farmers’ Markets.

In a move spearheaded by Madison Mayor Paul Soglin, local hospitals, and the Community Action Coalition for South Central Wisconsin, MadMarket Double Dollars Program is a dollar-for- dollar matching program giving low-income neighbors a chance to pick up fresh food.

With an abundance of fresh produce, fresh vegetables, and fresh music, Sunday seemed like a normal day at the Northside Farmers’ Market on Madison’s Sherman Avenue.

But there was undeniably something different.

People enrolled in Wisconsin’s Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program – otherwise known as SNAP – got more bang for their buck thanks to the new MadMarket Double Dollars Program.

“The city has decided to do a doubling program,” explained volunteer Lisa Weise. “For every dollar of our market money that you buy, the city will match that with a dollar of theirs.”

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The matching dollars come from donors and must be used within the market.

The program gives the low-income community more access to fresh produce.

There is a $30 limit and participants in the program cannot use the funds on restaurant food.

“One of the reasons the city is doing this is because this is a public health issue that people are eating unhealthy,” said Weise. “And it affects all aspects of our economy.”

Shopper Onyx O’Brien is a mother of four on the FoodShare Wisconsin program.

She expects to spend up to $500 a month on groceries to support her family.

“We’re on kind of the poor side of lif,” said O’Brien, “and having double your money is definitely a better way of doing it.”

Was the introduction of the program a success?

Typically the Northside Farmers’ Market gets two or three FoodShare Wisconsin transactions a day.

Officials said Sunday’s market saw 14 such transactions.

The new program applies to the farmers’ markets at Northside Town Center, Villager Mall, Labor Temple, and Eastside at Wil-Mar.