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September 10, 2020

Public Health uses Boulder soda tax funds to provide healthy food during COVID-19

Double Up Food Bucks & Fruit and Veg Boulder programs help provide fresh vegetables & fruit to residents

Boulder County, CO - In response to the increased need for food due to economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, Boulder County Public Health (Public Health) has been able to expand two fresh fruit and vegetable programs funded by the City of Boulder Sugar Sweetened Beverage Product Distribution Tax to fight hunger and help prevent chronic disease by providing more residents with access to healthy, fresh foods.

Enrollment in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly “food stamps”) has increased during the pandemic. Through a partnership with the Boulder County Farmers Markets and Whole Foods Market, the Double Up Food Bucks program offers residents participating in SNAP a dollar-for-dollar match of their benefits to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables at the Whole Foods or farmers markets located in Boulder.

“The Double Up program is an important addition to help put fresh, healthy, local food in reach for residents who often cannot afford it,” said Amelia Hulbert, Boulder County Public Health healthy eating and active living specialist. “For some families, this program may be the only way they can get fresh foods.”

For residents who didn’t qualify for federal food assistance programs, like SNAP or WIC (Women, Infants, and Children’s program), Public Health staff initiated a rapid response to enroll over 150 individuals and families in the Fruit & Veg Boulder program. The program provides provide $50-$120 per month in “Fruit & Veg Bucks,” which can be used at participating retail locations and farmers markets to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables.

“Feedback showed that the Fruit & Veg program helped participants get the fresh fruits and vegetables they needed during these challenging times, said Hulbert. “One participant shared, ‘I was not prepared for the virus to limit us this much financially, and I’m grateful for the assistance.’”

Residents enrolled in the WIC program can receive “Bucks” for use at the Boulder County Farmers Market, but the Fruit & Veg program supplemented that for the first several months of the pandemic.

Both the Double Up Food Bucks and Fruit & Veg programs are available to eligible City of Boulder residents through funding from the Health Equity Fund for the remainder of 2020. Public Health staff is actively working with partner organizations to plan for the upcoming surge in food insecurity that’s being anticipated through the fall.