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State Program Helps SNAP Recipients Stretch Their Dollars

The Homefull Mobile Grocery, one of the grocery stores in Montgomery County participating in the Produce Perks program.
Alejandro Figueroa
/
WYSO
The Homefull Mobile Grocery, one of the grocery stores in Montgomery County participating in the Produce Perks program.

Produce Perks encourages SNAP recipients to buy fresh fruits and vegetables from Ohio farmers markets and grocery stores by providing a dollar for dollar match on a purchase. In the coming fall, it’s expanding to more locations in Montgomery County.

Bernetta Brandon of Dayton has been using Produce Perks for the last five months. When she can, she waits, so she can shop at the Homefull Mobile Grocery store — a truck serving different neighborhoods in Dayton — so she can get her SNAP dollars matched.

“I'm so grateful that I’m able to get those bananas and stuff that I really need because the little bit of food stamps that I have I wouldn’t have been able to purchase with,” Brandon said.

Produce Perks is available to all SNAP and Pandemic-EBT recipients. There is no need to sign up, although a grocery store or farmers market does have to be an active participant.

The program has about 100 participating locations across 35 counties in Ohio. In 2020 purchases through the statewide program nearly doubled compared to the year before. It served over 20,000 households, according to a 2020 impact report.

Ana Bird, the Director of Programs at Produce Perks, said it was already seeing significant growth prior to 2019, but the pandemic increased the impact and use of the program.

“One of our goals is to continue expanding and targeting communities that were hardest hit,” Bird said. “Some may have the highest levels of unemployment, child poverty and SNAP. We would like to sort of intentionally but quite quickly over the next two years expand programming.”

Despite a rising increase in use, Bird said the program is yet to be available at larger scale grocery stores due to funding.

“We simply would not have the budget to support that,” Bird said. “So until we have kind of a large and steady stream of funding from the state or from the federal government, programming in that capacity is not necessarily feasible at this point.”

Right now, there are four active locations in Montgomery County, with some in Greene and Clark counties too.

In the fall, there are plans to expand the program to even more locations in Montgomery County, including around 20 other locations statewide within the coming year.

Food reporter Alejandro Figueroa is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.