MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee's Hunger Task Force and Outpost Natural Foods teamed up to take on one of their biggest challenges yet. To encourage low-income families in Milwaukee to put more fruits and vegetables in their carts and onto their dinner plates.
"Everyone deserves to eat well," said Margaret Mittelstadt, the director of community relations at Outpost Natural Foods.
"At least half of our plates, at every single meal, should be fresh produce," said the director of Milwaukee's Hunger Task Force, Sherrie Tussler.
That's why they decided to launch the "Produce to the People" program. The program allows anyone who receives or is eligible to receive Wisconsin SNAP benefits to buy produce at any of Outpost's four locations for 50% off.
"They can be produce from the produce department. It can be canned, it can be frozen, it can be juices," said Tussler. "People on SNAP will often complain that they can't afford to eat healthy. They've got a minimum number of benefits, they're trying to spend them as carefully as possible, and they often say they cannot afford fresh produce."
It's funded through the USDA's Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program. Since launching in May, the Produce to the People program, which is the first of its kind in Southeast Wisconsin, is already seeing a big response from the community.
"We have had more than $100,000 in sales, which is resulting in $50,000 in savings to people who are coming here. More than 4,500 transactions. So people are really using the program and finding it to be valuable," said Mittelstadt.
According to Milwaukee's Fresh Food Access Report, the city has 13 food deserts. Areas where people have limited access to a variety of healthful foods. That's why officials say offering the half-off incentive at Outpost's four grocery store locations was critical.
"Often times there are barriers to get there whether it's transportation, or could be financial, it could be a number of different variables," said Mittelstadt. "With having four locations and having access to major bus lines, it is accessible for most people to get to Outpost."
Mittelstadt says as long as grant money from the USDA is there, Outpost will continue to offer the 50% off produce incentive at its stores.