Eating with the Seasons: Affordable & Fun

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By: Frances Yañez

One of the best ways to enjoy summer here in West Michigan is to bring it to your plate! Local Farmers Markets are a great place to find fruits and veggies grown by your neighbors. Many farmers use healthy, sustainable methods, and I’ve found that our favorite foods like peaches, apples, spicy peppers are better when they’re straight from the field.

Shopping at the Farmers Market can be expensive. Here are two ways that will save you money on summer that fresh produce we love.

U-Pick Opportunities at Local Farms
West Michigan’s Fruit Ridge is one of the best growing climates in the world. Good soil and with a close proximity to Lake Michigan make it ideal for many fruits and vegetables, particularly apples, peaches and other fruits. Many of these orchards allow folks off the street to pick your own fresh fruit.  With a u-pick prices that often range between $1 and $1.50 per pound it’s an affordable, tasty way to eat what’s in season. And it’s something the whole family can do together!

Double-Up Food Bucks at Farmers Markets
This state-wide program makes it possible for those on food stamps to “double-up” their food stamp dollars at the Farmers Market, meaning for every dollar you spend, you get an extra one, making a $20 purchase of fresh veggies cost only $10. Here’s how it works:

  • While visiting your local farmer’s market, find the main office, tent or booth, and present staff with your bridge card.
  • Choose how many bridge card dollars you plan to spend at the market. You will get an equal amount of Double up food bucks bonus tokens to spend on fruits and vegetables from Michigan. The maximum is $20 per visit.
  • Just like at the grocery store, you may purchase SNAP-eligible food items, which in this case, are fresh fruits and vegetables from Michigan.

Most markets and U-Pick opportunities starts in June and run through the end of the season in October. I’ve shopped at the farmers market in Sparta for three summers now, and I enjoy having fresh produce. My family loves going to the market, and it’s a great opportunity for them to learn and shop and the same time.

Want to learn more about shopping, eating and living healthy? Need health insurance, benefits assistance, or referrals? Contact the Hispanic Center at 616-742-0200.  For more information about SNAP benefits and the Double Up Bucks program, call 1-866-586-2796.

Frances Yañez is the program coordinator for the Hispanic Center’s healthy eating initiative, Comprando Rico y Sano. She is passionate about educating the Latino community about health, and empowering the migrant community to take back their salud. She currently resides in Sparta, Michigan with her husband, kids, and her dog, Lucy.