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Seattle launches Fresh Bucks retail program with ethnic grocers

Program increases and diversifies locations where residents can access healthy food

Today Seattle launched the Fresh Bucks Retail program, the latest addition to the successful Fresh Bucks program focused on making healthy produce more accessible to people with low incomes.

The Fresh Bucks Retail program expands the locations where shoppers can use Fresh Bucks vouchers. The Fresh Bucks program provides a dollar-for-dollar match—up to $10 per day—of SNAP (food stamp) benefits for participants to spend at participating farmers market and now participating grocery stores. Since the program’s launch in 2012, low-income shoppers have used Fresh Bucks at farmers markets over 53,000 times to boost their fruit and vegetable consumption.

“With this expansion of the Fresh Bucks program, fewer families will have to make the choice between healthy and nutritious foods and critical household needs,” said Mayor Ed Murray. “ By improving access to affordable fresh fruits and vegetables, school-age children will be better prepared for school, seniors will experience improved health outcomes and families will thrive.”

Low-income residents now have the option to redeem their Fresh Bucks vouchers at six local, ethnic grocery stores. These stores, where communities regularly gather and shop, offer foods that are culturally appropriate. These stores are also open daily, creating convenient options for people to use Fresh Bucks. People who use SNAP can still redeem their Fresh Bucks at Seattle and King County farmers markets and farm stands.

The grocery stores are:

  • Al Medina Grocery – 81 S. Tobin St. Rent­on
  • Amana Warehouse and Grocer – 5503 MLK Jr. Way S. Seattle
  • El Paso Supermarket – 11417 Des Moines Memorial Drive, Seattle
  • Harameyn Halal Grocery – 5811 Rainier Ave S. Seattle
  • Mendoza’s Mexican Mercado – 7811 Aurora Ave N. Seattle
  • Sea Tac Market­ – 15221 International Blvd. Seatac

“This retail grocery program is a great benefit for our community,” said Abdullahi Jama, a community leader in the East African community. “Many of our families do much of their grocery shopping at these stores and while we will still continue to support our neighborhood farmers markets, we are excited that we will have more access to healthy food with this change.”

“We are very pleased that Mendoza’s Mexican Mercado will now accept Fresh Bucks,” said Sonia Mendoza, owner. “The very core of our business is feeding our community and this program really makes a difference in helping families put better food on the dinner table. We’re happy to be a part of that.”

Food insecurity is a real and growing problem for many in Seattle and affects many communities of color disproportionately. King County data shows that Hispanic adults were impacted almost three times more than white or Asian adults; multiracial, black and Native American/Alaska Native adults also experienced food hardship at disproportionate rates.

Mayor Murray recently signed the sugar-sweetened beverage legislation requiring a tax on all sugar-sweetened beverages in Seattle. The tax is intended to promote public health by reducing consumption of sugary drinks—which is linked to many serious health conditions including type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease, hypertension, and dental disease. Additionally, the tax will raise funds to support and expand Seattle healthy food access programs including Fresh Bucks.

The Fresh Bucks Retail program is funded in part by a federal Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) grant from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under award number 2015-70018-23357. The Seattle Office of Sustainability & Environment is the King County lead for this 4-year, statewide grant that was awarded to Washington State Department of Health in 2015. Under the Trump Administration, the City of Seattle is not expecting this grant to be renewed and the passage of the soda tax creates a secure a funding source for Fresh Bucks going forward.

More information on the Fresh Bucks program can be found here. More information on Washington’s FINI grant work can be found here.