Did you know there are actually three programs in North Carolina that can help you double your food benefits?! These include Fresh Bucks, Double Bucks, and Double Up Food Bucks Mountainwise.
In this article, we’ll talk about these three programs. We’ll review who is eligible for them, what stores participate and what you need to do in order to get free food with your next grocery purchase.
Fresh Bucks Incentive Program
The Fresh Bucks Incentive Program launched in 2015 and has steadily expanded to new markets since that time. It is managed by RAFI-USA and works at specific markets throughout North Carolina.
Who is eligible for Fresh Bucks?
The Fresh Bucks program only serves those who are shopping with food benefits provided by the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. These benefits are also known as food stamps, SNAP or EBT benefits.
It does not appear that there are any additional requirements for this program. However, you do have to shop at a participating market (as listed below).
How does Fresh Bucks work?
Fresh Bucks will give you up to $20 in free food when you shop at a participating farmers market. It’s a dollar matching program, so you get more if you spend more.
In order to use this, you’ll need to visit the information booth or market manager in order to get started. They’ll ask you to swipe your EBT card and specify how much you’d like to spend. You need to spend a whole dollar amount (like $10 or $15). You’ll receive one set of tokens equal to the amount you spent, and another set of tokens that can only be used to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables. You can get up to $20 in free tokens per day.
Fresh Bucks tokens do not expire until the end of the market season. You can spend some of your tokens one day and some on another day. It’s okay to save them up! This is very helpful if you don’t need $40 in food in one day. You can choose to spend as much as you need and save your extra tokens for another day.
What markets offer Fresh Bucks?
The following markets are currently participating in the Fresh Bucks program:
- Burlington: Alamance County Farmers Market
- Durham: Durham Co-Op Market
- Edenton: Edenton Farmers Market
- Garysburg: Garysburg Farmers Market
- Greenville: Access Connect Mobile Market
- Henderson: GRRO Mobile Market
- Kinston: Lenoir County Farmers Market
- Lexington: Lexington Farmers Market
- Manteo: Secotan Farmers Market
- Marion: Historic Marion Tailgate Market
- Morganton: Morganton Farmers Market
- Newport: Carteret Local Food Network
- Reidsville: Market Square Farmers Market
- Rocky Mount: Nash County Farmers Market
- Spring Lake: Spring Lake Farmers and Heritage Market
- Washington: Washington District Market
- Windsor: Windsor Farmers Market
- Wilmington: Local Motive Mobile Market
- Wilmington: Wilmington Farmers Market at Tidal Creek
Double Bucks Incentive Program
This program launched in 2019 and is also sponsored by RAFI-USA. Although this program only has a handful of participating markets, this is the most generous nutrition incentive program we’ve found so far. It serves a wider audience and offers a wider variety of products than many of the other nutrition incentive programs we have reported on.
Who is eligible for Double Bucks?
The program will also match cash purchases made by people who receive SNAP benefits, WIC benefits or even Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers! This is a rare opportunity because most of the incentive programs we’ve found do not match any cash purchases.
How does Double Bucks work?
First, you have to decide how much you want to spend. You’ll be able to double that amount, so if you want to buy $30 worth of products you should plan to spend $15 on your card. You’ll get an extra $15 to bring your total buying power to $30.
Second, you’ll need to visit the information table at your local market. It’s usually in an information booth. If you can’t find it, ask around. The vendors should know where it’s located. At the information table, you’ll swipe your EBT card for the amount you decided to spend. They’ll give you wooden tokens to spend at any vendor in the market. You’ll get twice as many as you pay for. There’s currently no limit to how much you can double per day!
Third, you’ll browse the market for EBT-eligible products. You can use your wooden tokens to purchase EBT-eligible items but you need to remember that no change is given. Every purchase is rounded up to the closest dollar amount.
If you don’t want to spend all of your tokens in one day, that’s okay. You can set them aside and bring them back to that market another day. However, each market stamps their tokens so you have to use those tokens at the same market that gave them to you. They won’t be valid if you take them to a different market.
What markets offer Double Bucks?
There are currently about a dozen markets that offer this program.
In the Durham area:
- Durham Farmers Market
- South Durham Farmers Market
- East Durham Farmers Market
In the Triangle area:
- Carrboro Farmers Market
- Chapel Hill Farmers Market
- Eno River Farmers Market
In other areas:
- Stanly County Farmers Market
- Ashe County Farmers Market
- Leroy James Farmers Market (Pitt County)
- Market Square Farmers Market (Reidsville)
- Morganton Farmers Market (Burke County)
Double Up Food Bucks Mountainwise
The Double Up Food Bucks program is a nationwide movement. The North Carolina chapter is called “Mountainwise” and only serves the western part of the state.
Who is eligible for DUFB Mountainwise?
To be eligible for Double Up Food Bucks Mountainwise, you need to receive SNAP food benefits. There are no other eligibility requirements.
How does Double Up Food Bucks work?
The process of using DUFB at the farmers market is the same as the other two nutrition incentive programs in this article. You find a participating market, visit the information booth, swipe your EBT card and receive tokens that you can spend with the market’s vendors.
However, DUFB Mountainwise also works at certain participating grocery stores and food hubs as well. Some grocers will require you to sign-up at the cashier or customer service desk before you can receive these benefits. Each location can also set their own matching limits, so some stores may offer more free food than others.
The DUFB Mountainwise organization encourages you to check with your store’s cashier or customer service desk prior to shopping to make sure that you understand how the program works at their location.
What locations offer Double Up Food Bucks in NC?
The farmers markets, coops and food hubs that offer Double Up Food Bucks include:
- Ashe County Farmers Markets
- Boone Winter Farmers Market
- French Broad Food Coop
- Haywood’s Historic Farmers Market
- Henderson Farmers Market
- High Country Food Hub (online market)
- Jackson County Farmers Market
- King Street Farmers Market
- Mars Hill Farmers Market
- Mills River Farmers Market
- Murphy Farmers Market
- Patchwork Urban Farms
- Rutherford BARN
- Rutherford County Farmers Market
- Tractor Food & Farms (CSA)
- Transylvania Farmers Market
- Watauga County Farmers Market
These grocery stores also participate:
- Jarrett’s IGA (Rosman)
- West Village Market (Asheville)
North Carolina’s Double Up food incentive programs help low income people throughout the state get more food for their money. Although some of these programs have daily matching limits, others do not. It is an easy way for low income shoppers to purchase more healthy food.