$Monday: Double Up Food Bucks

Such a strange Memorial Day we're having! We're out in the backyard grilling as usual, but we can only safely eat and drink and gather 'round the s'more-roasting fire with the members of our own household. And right at the kickoff of burger-and-hot-dog season, the supply chain for meat is collapsing. Fortunately, we've already mastered the joys of grilling vegetables, fruits, and cheese sandwiches--and this is also the season to take full advantage of Double Up Food Bucks!

Double Up Food Bucks is a program that started here in my home state of Michigan and was recently extended to many states across the nation. Essentially, it's a program that gives families half off fresh produce, up to $20 price as marked, when they use an EBT card at participating farmers markets (searchable on the website). This makes it easy to afford lots of healthy produce, much of which can be transformed into a delicious treat over a grill.

My family is using an EBT card for the first time, thanks to our school district's Pandemic EBT program. It's a great help in making sure we're all getting proper nutrition, no matter what happens to our income. It's also an important support for our mental health, as the children of multiple generations of people who starved to the point of suffering permanent health consequences. Though I personally have never been without access to enough food, I have accidentally malnourished myself at times when I have been severely stressed (which makes me lose my appetite) or worried that there might not be enough to keep my child and myself both fed. Our new EBT card takes away my worry and gives me a physical reminder to buy more food.

Although I'm still sad that we can't invite family and friends over for a cookout or go to theirs, I am enjoying my backyard fire pit and grill with my husband and daughter.

Purple potatoes and green and red bell peppers make a colorful, vitamin-packed, and scrumptious veggie kebab. For more protein and fat, halloumi cheese can be grilled all by itself, or any kind of cheese can be grilled between two thick slices of bread.

For dessert, citrus fruits, peaches, and even watermelon can be seared on the grill for a surprising depth of caramelized flavor, and on hot days, sliced fruit can be dropped into ice pop molds with a dash of lemonade, juice, or soda for a refreshing treat.

If you're at all concerned about food security and you haven't received a Pandemic EBT card automatically, check into whether you qualify for food assistance. It's very likely that you do if you are a parent who isn't exceptionally well-off. If you qualify for EBT, check the Double Up Food Bucks maps for local availability. Still need help? Contact any food banks that serve your area. Most of them have expanded their operations and services to meet growing needs, and you don't have to qualify for EBT to participate.

Feed your immune system, starve coronavirus! Happy grilling season!


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