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$41 Million for Healthy Food Access Projects Now Available

May 8, 2019


Anthony Micheli and daughter Scarlett stand ready to sell their vegetables at a Texas Farmers Market. Photo credit: USDA.
Anthony Micheli and daughter Scarlett stand ready to sell their vegetables at a Texas Farmers Market. Photo credit: USDA.

Editor’s Note: On May 9, NIFA issued a revised RFA fixing a number of discrepancies between the RFA the program’s statute. NIFA will host a free informational webinar for interested applicants on May 15, 2019 at 2:00 p.m., Eastern Standard Time. An archived version will be available on NIFA’s webpage following the webinar. More information on the webinar can also be found below.

Newly renamed, the former Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentives Program (FINI) – now the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program (GusNIP) helps low-income families access more fresh fruits and vegetables. The program, which is still jointly administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and Food and Nutrition Service, recently announced the availability of $41 million in funds for fiscal year (FY) 2019 projects. This is the first round of funding being offered since passage of the 2018 Farm Bill.

The full Request for Applications (RFA) which includes all three subprograms (listed below) of GusNIP can be found here. The deadline to submit proposals is June 10, 2019 at 5:00pm Eastern Standard Time. Proposals should be submitted online via http://www.grants.gov/.

Funding Opportunities: New and Ongoing

Authorized by the 2018 Farm Bill, GusNIP is a competitive grant program that helps low-income families to access and purchase more fresh fruits and vegetables through “cash” incentives that increase their purchasing power at locations like farmers markets.

The 2018 Farm Bill expanded the scope of GusNIP and authorized three distinct funding opportunities for eligible entities within the larger program:

  1. SNAP Incentives: Competitive grants for projects that use point-of-sale fruit and vegetable incentives to help low-income consumers participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) purchase fresh fruits and vegetables at locations such as farmers markets, CSAs and local retail grocers.
  2. Produce Prescription Programs: Competitive grants for projects that provide “prescriptions” for fruits and vegetables to low-income individuals and households that suffer from, or are at risk of developing diet-related health conditions to encourage increased produce consumption through financial, educational, or other incentives.
  3. Training, Technical Assistance, Evaluation and Information Center(s): Cooperative agreements to establish training, technical assistance, information and evaluation center(s) with the goal of helping to develop and disseminate best practices, systems and technologies; provide intensive support for high-need areas; and develop more efficient reporting and evaluation processes.

SNAP Incentives

SNAP Incentives applications are accepted for the following three types of projects:

  1. Pilot Projects: one-year projects with a grant maximum of $100,000 that are aimed at new applicants seeking funding for a project in the early stages of incentive program development.
  2. Full Projects: projects of up to four years with a grant maximum of $500,000 that are aimed at groups developing incentive programs at the local or state level.
  3. Large-Scale Projects: projects of up to four years with a grant of at least $500,000 that are aimed at groups developing multi-county, state, and regional incentive programs with large target audiences.

All projects must:

  • Have support of the state agency responsible for administering SNAP.
  • Increase the purchase of fruits and vegetables by low-income SNAP consumers at the point of purchase.
  • Operate through authorized SNAP retailers, and be in compliance with all relevant SNAP regulations and operating requirements.
  • Agree to participate in program evaluation efforts.
  • Ensure that the same terms and conditions apply to purchases made by individuals receiving SNAP benefits as apply to purchases made by individuals who are not SNAP participants.
  • Provide a 50 percent non-federal cash or in-kind match. Exceptions include projects that include Tribal agencies; Tribal agencies may use federal funds to satisfy all or part of the non-federal share is such use is not otherwise inconsistent with the purpose of those funds.

Only government agencies and nonprofit organizations are eligible to apply for SNAP Incentive grants through GusNIP. Eligible applicants include:

  • Agricultural cooperatives
  • Producer networks or associations
  • Farmers markets
  • Community-supported agriculture programs
  • Buying clubs
  • SNAP-authorized retailers
  • Emergency feeding organizations
  • Community health organizations
  • Public benefit corporations
  • Economic development corporations
  • State, local, or tribal agencies

Eligible entities may partner with or make sub-grants to public, private, nonprofit or for-profit entities.

Priority will be given to projects that:

  • Maximize the share of funds used for direct incentives to participants.
  • Use direct-to-consumer sales marketing (farmers markets, CSAs, food stands).
  • Demonstrate a track record of designing and implementing successful nutrition incentive programs that connect low-income consumers and agricultural producers.
  • Provide locally or regionally produced fruits and vegetables.
  • Include a project design (1) that provides incentives when fruits or vegetables are purchased using SNAP, and (2) in which the incentives earned may be used only to purchase fruits and vegetables.
  • Have demonstrated the ability to provide services to underserved communities.
  • Include coordination with multiple stakeholders such as, but not limited to, farm organizations, health related businesses and NGOs, and cooperative extension.
  • Offer supplemental services in high-need communities, including online ordering, transportation between home and store and deliver services.
  • Include food retailers that are open for extended hours on most or all days of the year.

Produce Prescription Programs

This new subprogram provides competitive grant funding to eligible entities for projects to conduct and evaluate the impact of produce prescriptions programs and their ability to improve dietary health through increased consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables, reduce individual and household food insecurity, and reduce health care use and associated costs.

Funding for Produce Prescription Program projects is capped at a maximum of $500,000, and projects are not to exceed 3 years. Unlike the SNAP Incentives projects, no match is required to receive Produce Prescription Program funding. Produce Prescription Program projects must include components aimed at evaluating the ability of the program to improve dietary health through increased consumption of produce, the reduction of individual or household food insecurity, and the reduction in health care use and associated cost.

Only government agencies and nonprofit organizations are eligible to apply for Produce Prescription Program grants. Eligible applicants include:

  • Agricultural cooperatives
  • Producer networks or associations
  • Farmers markets
  • Community-supported agriculture programs
  • Buying clubs
  • SNAP-authorized retailers
  • Emergency feeding organizations
  • Community health organizations
  • Public benefit corporations
  • Economic development corporations
  • State, local, or tribal agencies

Eligible entities must partner with one or more “health care partner” to be eligible. Health care partners include:

  • Hospitals
  • Federally-qualified health centers
  • Hospitals or clinics operated by the Secretary of Veteran Affairs
  • Health care provider groups

Individuals are eligible to participate in Produce Prescription Programs if the individual is: (1) eligible for SNAP or any other benefits under the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 or medical assistance through Medicaid, Medicare or a Veterans Affairs Health Plan, and (2) a member of a low-income  household that suffers from, or is at risk of developing, a diet-related health condition.

Training, Technical Assistance, Evaluation and Information Center(s)

Funding for this third subprogram are targeted toward the establishment of cooperative agreements between eligible entities and one or more training, technical assistance, evaluation, and/or information center(s). The goals of the Information Centers are to:

  • Develop and disseminate best practices for SNAP Incentives and Produce Prescription Programs.
  • Provide intensive support for programs in high-need areas.
  • Coordinate among incentive practitioners, point of sale and electronic payment companies, grocers and farm direct retailers, and federal and state SNAP agencies on the development and sharing of improved and cost-effective SNAP and incentive transaction systems.
  • Develop a centralized hub for the reporting of standardized program data to reduce duplication and ensure consistent information collection. The information will be used for annual reporting to Congress and USDA and will be publicly searchable in a way that will facilitate connections between programs and further research in the field.

Program Resources

Editor’s Note: On May 9, NIFA issued a revised RFA fixing a number of discrepancies between the RFA the program’s statute.

NIFA will host a webinar on May 15, 2019 at 2:00 p.m. ET for potential applicants to all three subprograms of GusNIP to review the RFA and application process, and answer any questions applicants may have.

Interested applicants should note that significant discrepancies exist between the statutory language for GusNIP as included in the 2018 Farm Bill, and the language included within the RFA. We at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) are working with our members and partners to get clarification from NIFA regarding those discrepancies.

NSAC is hopeful that, among other things, this webinar will be used as an opportunity to clarify and address discrepancies in the RFA and the statutory language for the program as contained in the 2018 Farm Bill. NSAC will post additional updates and/or resources as they become available; it is possible that NIFA will issue an updated RFA or make additional clarifying resources available soon.

Inspirational GusNIP Projects

In 2018, NSAC memberLiveWell Colorado was awarded $466,951 for theirDouble Up Food Bucks Colorado: Sustainability, Expansion, and Innovation Project. LiveWell Colorado’s project focuses on increasing fruit and vegetable consumption for low-income Coloradans and economic opportunities for Colorado farmers through three new areas of expansion and innovation. LiveWell is working to diversify the type of partner sites and extending the Double Up Food Bucks program (Double Up) season, while integrating the promotion and implementation of Double Up into digital platforms.

Another NSAC member, Rural Advancement Foundation International – USA, received $363,880 to partner with four farmers markets to coordinate SNAP Ambassador programs, which rely on SNAP recipients’ knowledge and local connections to develop marketing and outreach activities. Funding will also support six local food outlets dedicated to increasing low-income consumers’ access to healthy food but who may have low organizational capacity in becoming SNAP-certified retailers, purchasing EBT equipment, or accepting EBT incentives.

A full list of the 2018 funded projects can be found on USDA’s website here.


Categories: Carousel, General Interest, Nutrition & Food Access


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