By Analeigh Sanderson and Hilary Smith, Sustainability Resource Center
After its eight-week trial run at the U of U Farmers Market, the results are in: the new Double Your Dollars token program, a Sustainable Campus Initiative Fund (SCIF)-sponsored subsidy to help students and recipients of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) better afford healthy local food, has been deemed a smashing success.
Through the Double Your Dollars program, U students and SNAP benefit recipients visiting the weekly U of U Farmers Market were able to purchase wooden tokens worth twice their purchase price, which they could then redeem on edible market goods like produce, bread, salsa, honey, candy, granola bars, and coffee beans. Tokens cost customers fifty cents apiece but were worth a dollar toward eligible goods. Vendors turned in spent tokens to market managers, receiving a full dollar for each.
The dual goals of the program were to help students afford healthy food options and to reduce the stigma against users of SNAP benefits by making the tokens available to anyone with a U of U student ID.
Market shoppers spent $1,898 over the course of the eight market days to buy a total of 3,796 tokens, which, when matched by money from SCIF, allowed them to purchase $3,796 worth of food. A SCIF matching grant for the project was initially secured for $1,500 and later upped to $2,000 to meet increasing demand for the tokens.
News of the program spread like wildfire, with plenty of word-of-mouth advertising from students, faculty, staff, and market vendors. Tokens were sold at the marker manager’s booth each day the market ran. Customers were for the most part patient with organizers as they worked out the kinks of the pilot project—like occasional token shortages and long waiting lines.
A recent survey of token users showed overwhelming support for the program. Almost all respondents said they bought more food than they otherwise would have, thanks to their doubled dollars, and 90 percent said they told friends about the opportunity.
Rachael DeWitt, a graduate student in Environmental Humanities, was a frequent token buyer this market season. “It can be hard as a student with limited funds to put my money toward things I really support—like local, organic produce. The tokens made that happen, and I felt like the U and all the folks behind that program were interested in helping us students live healthy, happy lives,” she said.
Project organizers are hoping to sell the tokens again next year, and possibly to expand the program, fund more tokens, and raise or eliminate caps on how many tokens each person can buy. They will likely call on SCIF again to provide at least a part of the token subsidy, but they are also looking for additional funding partners. Organizations or departments interested in helping to fund and expand the Double Your Dollars program can contact Analeigh Sanderson at email@example.com.
The U of U Farmer’s Market has packed its tents away for the season, and the tokens have been stored, hopefully awaiting their second year of circulation.
But there’s still time for students to apply for SCIF funding, to get additional sustainability projects rolling on campus.
SCIF, the U’s green grant program, invites students, faculty, and staff from all disciplines and departments to propose projects aimed at improving sustainability on campus or in the U community. Past projects have ranged from beehives to recycling initiatives, light pollution-reducing street lamps to garden projects. The first deadline for large SCIF grants—grants over $5,000—is Friday, Dec. 5. The next deadline for grants ranging from $1,000-$4,999 is Friday, Feb. 13, 2015. Applications are available online online. For questions or assistance regarding SCIF projects, check out these online resources or email firstname.lastname@example.org.