In just half a season through our innovative channels, UpDIG Farm + Grocery has earned top 2017 sales for Double Up Colorado Food Bucks, LiveWell Colorado’s program offering USDA SNAP customers the opportunity to receive fresh, Colorado-grown produce, dollar-for-dollar, for every SNAP purchase they make.
UpDIG’s Entrepreneur/Enterprise Focus
UpDIG Farm + Grocery is not a typical USDA-authorized farm stand. We are a social enterprise offering a range of interconnected solutions for urban food challenges. From mobile produce carts to pop-up shops, in-store produce kiosks, urban farms, and a network of organic growers across Colorado and the West, we are constantly cycling through a range of approaches, collecting measurable observations, and learning as we go. In this way, we are able to design and create solutions with a long-term potential for positive impact on people’s lives, the environment, and our local economy.
Sustainable, Profitable Solutions
In a previous post, Andrew Vermouth described our integrative design process. When Denver’s Department of Environmental Health (DEH) contracted with us on our new approach to marketing local produce by launching the “Mobile Produce Market Pilot Initiative,” we used our process to produce a market cart that is modular, flexible enough to be pushed by hand or pulled by bicycle, and serves as both an interlocking display for goods, and as safe, attractive cold storage indoors or out. The DEH contract enabled us to produce five of these mobile market carts, which we then stationed at two Metro Denver corner stores and deployed for mobile pop-up markets in the Lincoln Park and Sun Valley neighborhoods of Denver.
As a USDA-certified SNAP administrator, we knew from our experience selling at farmer’s markets that Double Up Food Bucks was an attractive option for SNAP customers. But Colorado did not yet have any brick-and-mortar locations for SNAP customers to use their Double Up benefit. We simply asked ourselves, “Why not?”
We saw this as an opportunity, and soon found that our healthy corner store partners did, too.
By extending the Double Up Food Bucks program into the corner stores where SNAP customers shop on a daily basis, we saw benefits on all sides. Store owners received a Double Up Food Bucks sales incentive, and we saw produce sales increase exponentially, making us the top sales vehicle for Double Up Food Bucks in Colorado. And most importantly, SNAP customers were all too glad to increase their consumption of fresh, locally-grown fruits and vegetables at no extra cost.
- 640 Double Up Transactions from 240 unique customers
- $4,134 in total Double Up sales
We know that 52 percent of the value from Double Up redemptions came from 41 repeat customers at our two partner corner stores. Overall, our Double Up customers took home:
- About 1,000 Colorado-grown peaches
- About 700 lbs of UpDIG Farm + Grocery tomatoes, local corn, and local plums
- Approximately 700 Colorado-grown apples
Although these discrete numbers aren’t necessarily significant on their own, they helped us learn that there truly is a large base of SNAP-eligible customers who are already making regular food purchases from corner stores, and that these locations offer an ideal venue for the Double Up program. Our results suggest that corner stores offer the potential for Double Up to reach more of their target audience and promote longer-term behavior change among SNAP customers, given enough time.
Due to the overall demand, UpDIG is now expanding our mini-food hub in one of these corner stores, taking advantage of the shop’s excess cold storage to keep more produce on hand for both our wholesale and retail customers. On a similar basis, we hope to expand our corner store partnerships in the next year, along with extending Double Up Food Bucks to these partners, to bring healthy, fresh, Colorado-grown food to even more people in the Metro Denver area.