Wholesome Wave’s Double Value Coupon Program


  • The United States Department of Agriculture defines a food desert as “as urban neighborhoods and rural towns without ready access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food.”1 In 2009, it was estimated that 5 million people live in low-income areas that are more than 1 mile from a supermarket or large grocery store,2 limiting the access residents have to healthy food spatially, which is compounded by the fact that low-income residents’ poverty made means to obtain regular transportation to supermarkets and grocery stores more difficult.
    • It is important to note that not all of the previously mentioned 23.5 million people have low income. If estimates are restricted to consider only low income people in low-income areas, then 11.5 million people, or 4.1 percent of the total U.S. population, live in low-income areas more than 1 mile from a supermarket.2
    • Data on time use and travel mode show that people living in low-income areas with limited access spend significantly more time (19.5 minutes) traveling to a grocery store than the national average (15 minutes).2 In small-town and rural areas with limited food access, the lack of transportation infrastructure is the most defining characteristic.2
      • Urban centers with limited food access are also characterized by higher levels of racial segregation and greater levels of income inequality.
      • Surveys about food access show that nearly 6 percent of all U.S. households did not always have the food they wanted or needed because of access related problems, with more than half of these households also lacked enough money for food.2
      • It is also important to note that full-sized supermarkets and grocery stores have lower priced food than smaller stores, such as convenience stores. A key concern for people who live in areas with limited access is that they rely on small grocery or convenience stores that may not carry all the foods needed for a healthy diet and that may offer these foods and other food at higher prices.2
    • The city of Trenton itself has been identified as a food desert and designated as having issues and symptoms similar to those of other urban centers considered food deserts with food insecurity affecting about one in five Trenton households.
  • Nearly half of the city’s children, including those as young as three to five years old, are considered to be obese due to lack of access to healthy food.3
  • A total of 17 percent of Trenton households report regularly lacking enough food to eat.3
  • There are only three true supermarkets within the city limits, with an incredibly high number of what food access exists being restricted to limited food service restaurants (51 percent of outlets) and bodegas (29 percent), Trenton would have to triple its number of supermarkets to adequately serve its residents.3


  • Wholesome Wave, a nonprofit founded in 2007 that is dedicated improving the accessibility and affordability of fresh, healthy, locally-grown food to historically underserved communities, launched its Double Value Coupon Program (DVCP) in 2008 in order to specifically target communities with poor food access.4
    • DVCP has three aims as a program: expand the customer base for small-midsize farms, incentivize vulnerable families living in urban and rural communities to use federal nutrition benefits to buy healthy, fresh, locally-grown food, and generate economic stimulus.
      • When shopping at participating farmers markets and other farm-to-retail venues, DVCP participants receive a coupon incentive that matches the amount they spend in federal nutrition benefits (such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, or WIC) towards the purchase of healthful, locally grown food.5
      • As of Feburary 2012, there were currently 46.3 million Americans were enrolled in SNAP – an increase of 4.8% from the previous year.6In 2010, 55% of SNAP recipients were children under the age of 18 or seniors over the age of 60.6 41% of SNAP households received income from a job.viDVCP generates true economic stimulus by keeping federal nutrition benefit funds within local and regional communities.
    • Implementing an incentive program, such as DVCP, at farm-to-retail venues has the potential to increase the consumption of healthy produce by participating community members and support the viability of small and midsize farms by creating new revenue streams.
    • S. consumers and residents who are using federal nutrition benefits are increasingly turning to and shopping at farmers markets, with Wholesome Wave seeing DVCP as playing a part in this trend. In 2012, $16.6 million in purchases were made by SNAP recipients at markets, up from $1 million in 2007.4


  • Since the program’s first implementation in 2008, DVCP has seen sizable growth in the number of participating markets and sales. Federal nutrition benefits and DVCP sales made at participating markets grew from $331,000 in 2009 to over $2.3 million in 2012.4 DVCP has experienced tremendous growth, expanding from 40 farmers markets in 2009 to 306 farm-to-retail markets in 2012.4
    • More than 3,200 farmers were able to benefit from Wholesome Wave programming in 2012, and over 1,000 other vendors at participating markets may experience increased sales due to their expanding customer base.4
      • Almost a third (30%) of DVCP consumers said they planned to spend an average of $28.95 at nearby businesses on market day, resulting in over $1 million spent by DVCP consumers at nearby local businesses in 2012.4
      • Both farmers participating in DVCP and other farmer’s market vendors reported increased sales (66% and 41% respectively) due to DVCP at their markets, while they also reported increased foot traffic from customers using federal nutrition benefits.
    • An extensive study done on DVCP users found that almost half of enrolled study participants (48 percent) came regularly to the markets and of those who participated throughout the entire study, over 60 percent purchased fruits and vegetables at the participating farmers market almost every week.5
      • Mid-season surveys of DVCP consumers reveal while many (22%) were coming to the market for the first time or they rarely came to the market (6%), the majority reported coming to the market one or 2 times per month (28%) or 3 or more times per month (44%) during the market season.
    • Further study shows a significant change in shopping behavior among participants, most markedly from a shift in buying fresh fruits and vegetables at supermarkets to buying them at farmers markets during the DVCP period.5 In addition, over two-thirds of all participants were buying all or most of their fresh fruits and vegetables at the farmer’s market midway through the DVCP study period.5
      • The DVCP not only led to increased fruit and vegetable consumption during the 16-week season, but vegetable consumption remained higher 2 months after the DVCP had ended.4


  • In addition to pairing with federally funded programs such as SNAP, Wholesome Wave funds its programs through fundraising and donations from its partner network.
    • In 2012, the Wholesome Wave partner network leveraged funding to raise an estimated additional $4M from private and public sources to support their incentive programs.6
    • Wholesome Wave additionally receives federally funded grants, recently receiving a $2 million dollar grant from the United States Department of Agriculture.6


1 United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Marketing Service: Food Deserts


2 United States Department of Agriculture, Measuring and Understanding Food Deserts and Their Consequences, U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Serive, June 2009


3 Trenton Health Team, Community Health Needs Assessment Report Trenton, New Jersey, July 2013 http://www.capitalhealth.org/~/media/B67A9807E88E472287BCADB9CB7BCD67.ashx

4 Wholesome Wave, Wholesome Wave’s Double Value Coupon Program: Increasing Food Access and Local Farm Business Nationwide, 2012


5 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Double Value Coupon Program Diet and Shopping Behavior Study, September 2012


6 Wholesome Wave, Double Value Coupon Program (DVCP)

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