When Jesus blessed one boy’s humble gift of two fishes and five loaves, it was made to feed thousands. And there were twelve baskets of leftovers! Your generosity through the Moravian Ministries Foundation in America (MMFA) is blessed too! Your gifts to the Moravian Hunger & Thirst Field of Interest Fund on the Moravian Day of Giving provided a grant to the Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture (BRWIA). And God blessed it. BRWIA is a women-led organization headquartered in Boone, NC. Started in 2003, BRWIA builds an equitable, sustainable High Country local food system by supporting producers and cultivating community connections that educate, inspire, and increase the demand for local food.
Blessed for a Win-Win-Win
For almost ten years, BRWIA’s Double Up Food Bucks program has been providing a 1:1 match for those using federal nutrition benefits (SNAP, W.I.C. Farmers’ Market vouchers, and Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program vouchers) at four farmers’ markets in northwestern North Carolina.
The program is a “win-win-win for the community,” according to Dave Walker (former Development Director). “Low-income families have healthier choices, farmers gain new customers, and more local food dollars circulate in our community.”
One shopper recently stated, “Double Up has provided me, a single mother, a way to feed my child local organically grown produce. This goes beyond just feeding my child organic food, but contributes to supporting his overall health. It has relieved me of having to make hard choices between feeding my child nutritious food to support his development or making this month’s rent.”
In 2021, 278 unique families matched $47,997 through 1,069 transactions; more was matched in 2021 than in the previous 4 years combined. However, the BRWIA staff realized that to expand Double Up’s reach and impact, they would have to focus on not just having more funds available for matching, but on building relationships.
“We recognized everyone needs to feel welcome at the markets,” Walker explained. “We have to be out in the community, meeting people where they are, and listening to understand what they need and how to improve what we’re offering.”
Blessed to make a difference!
In March 2022 BRWIA received a $25,000 grant from the Hunger and Thirst Field of Interest Fund. This grant has enabled them to:
- Facilitate focus groups with Double Up Food Bucks participants to have a better understanding of their needs (ex. cooking classes on food preservation and how to cook in bulk).
- Partner with different organizations to host special event days at the farmers’ markets, including Q’Pasa Appalachia for Dia Latino and High Country Lifelong Learners for Senior Day. These collaborations have helped BRWIA increase the number of Double Up shoppers and have fostered important relationships with people oftentimes underrepresented at farmers’ markets. Other partners include The Children’s Council, the Immigrant Justice Coalition, and Watauga Women in Leadership.
- Offer unlimited match which has meant people are able to do more of their primary shopping at farmers’ markets. BRWIA also allows shoppers to use Double Up bucks on any food they purchase at the market, not just fruits and vegetables. “It’s an equity thing,” Walker said. “If someone wants to get a homemade bottle of BBQ sauce, they should be able to.”
We give thanks for the vital work of the Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture, as well as for the generous contributions that make our grants program possible. Visit MMFA’s Grant Central Station.