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Measure Could Expand SNAP Buying Power For Locally Grown Food

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A bill moving through the Hawaii State Legislature could increase the buying power of people using government SNAP-EBT benefits to purchase food through the state's DA BUX program. Funding to continue the program, however, is not part of the proposal.

The Hawaii Health Food Incentive Program, also known as DA BUX Double Up Food Bucks, provides a dollar-for-dollar match to beneficiaries of the federal Supplement Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP and previously known as food stamps.

The DA BUX match only applies to purchases of Hawaii-grown fruits and vegetables, and purchases are capped at $10 per visit, per day.

SB 512 would remove the $10 a day cap, and the match also expands the benefit to healthy proteins, not just fruits and vegetables.

Several state departments and community organizations testified in support of the bill.

"We really do feel like this program is a triple win and is much needed during this time of economic and public health crisis," said Jaylen Murakami of the Hawaii Public Health Institute, who testified in support of the bill. She noted that the program supports healthy food purchases for families, supports local agriculture and keeps money in the local economy.

"In 2020 alone, through the DA BUX program, food retailers issued over $978,000 in incentive discounts. That really translates to $1.9 million in local food purchases," Murakami said.

When the program was established, the Hawaii State Legislature appropriated $100,000 for the past two fiscal years. The current bill does not appropriate additional state money to the DA BUX program. However, the state matched $500,000 in private contributions to the program last October.

SB 512 has crossed over and passed out of the House Agriculture Committee on Friday.

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