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USDA Awards $16.8 Million to Increase Healthy Food Access for Low-Income Americans

June 9, 2016


Young mother with child selects items in produce aisle of grocery store. Photo credit: USDA.

Young mother with child selects items in produce aisle of grocery store. Photo credit: USDA.

Eating a nutritious diet is the cornerstone of any healthy lifestyle, but for many Americans healthy foods may seem hopelessly out of reach. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) bridges the gap between lower-income families, but benefit levels are low and make purchase of nutritionally important items like fresh fruits and vegetables difficult.

The Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentives (FINI) Program provides grants to projects that help low-income consumers participating in SNAP purchase more fresh fruits and vegetables through cash incentives that increase their purchasing power, increasing access to fresh, healthy food while increasing markets for local farmers.

On June 8, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) awarded $16.8 million in FINI funding for grant projects that encourage SNAP participants to make healthy food choices.

Types of Grants Awarded

Three separate types of grants were awarded in this cycle – multi-year community-based projects, multi-year large-scale projects, and pilot projects. Priority was given to projects that:

  • Provide incentives to directly and efficiently increase the purchase and consumption of eligible fruits and vegetables by SNAP participants
  • Use direct-to-consumer marketing
  • Develop innovative benefit redemption systems
  • Provide locally-or-regionally-produced fruits and vegetables
  • Are located in underserved communities

Multi-Year Community-Based Projects aim to support mid-sized organizations that have experience in implementing incentive programs to increase community-based food projects at the local and state level. Projects could receive up to $500,000 and could not exceed four years. A total of $5 million was awarded to eleven projects in Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Montana, New York and Oklahoma.

We congratulate in particular the two NSAC member organizations were also among the awardees:

  • Interfaith Sustainable Food Collaborative (CA) was awarded $155,200 to provide a dollar-for-dollar match to SNAP participants for local fruits and vegetables through CSAs and farm stands. The project also provides nutrition education for 720 SNAP recipients, emphasizing outreach to sites attended by underserved Latinos, Southeast Asians and African Americans.

“Having a direct relationship with a farmer through a CSA subscription or farm stand means families transform their diets while deepening the way they view local economics, agriculture and the environment,” said Steve Schwartz, Executive Director of the Interfaith Sustainable Food Collaborative.

  • Wholesome Wave (CT) was awarded $500,000 to implement a Farm-to-Grocery Nutrition Incentive model that increases the procurement of locally grown food at participating stores, as well as funds coupons for fresh fruits and vegetables that match the value of SNAP spent at those stores. 

“Wholesome Wave is thrilled by the innovations that USDA is supporting through the new FINI grants, which are taking the work of increasing affordable access to healthy food to even greater levels of impact,” said Michel Nischan, Founder and CEO, Wholesome Wave. “So many SNAP shoppers are working parents with limited time to source healthier food choices. Through the new Farm-to-Grocery model, our partners in VT and CT will be able to expand affordable access to SNAP consumers in a way that allows them to find and purchase more healthy food from a variety of retailers.”

Multi-Year Large-Scale Projects support endeavors that expand the breadth, scope or reach of existing incentive programs so that they are multi-county, statewide, or regional programs. Projects require $500,000 or more in funding and cannot exceed four years. Four projects were award $11.7 million collectively and were awarded to organizations in California, Missouri, New Mexico and New York.

  • The Mid-America Regional Council Community Service Corporation (MO) was awarded $2,888,979 to test and research the effectiveness of incentive programs. The project will analyze settings in grocery stores vs. farmers markets, and compare the use of three payment approaches (tokens, coupons, and loyalty card programs) in order to better inform future incentive program designs.

Pilot Projects support the early development of innovative incentive program by new entrants. Projects could exceed one year and awards were a maximum of $100,000. Twelve projects were awarded across Arizona, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Vermont in this category, including:

  • Michigan Physical Fitness, Health and Sports Foundation (MI) received $29,809 to pilot a community supported agriculture (CSA) half-share program. Through this project 100 CSA half-shares (subsidized 75 percent by FINI funds) will be made available at five EBT-authorized food pantries to serve at risk SNAP communities culturally appropriate, locally produced fruits and vegetables.

More Information

A full list of the 2016 funded projects can be on USDA’s website here. The RFA for 2016 can be found here.

The funding for the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) grants is from the 2014 Farm Bill. FINI is a joint program between the USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). The 2014 Farm Bill allocates $100 million to FINI between 2014 and 2018, $31 million of which was awarded for fiscal years (FY) 2014 and 2015 combined. When the next round of FINI project funding is made available (for FY 2017), NSAC will post the announcement on our blog.


Categories: Local & Regional Food Systems, Nutrition & Food Access


2 responses to “USDA Awards $16.8 Million to Increase Healthy Food Access for Low-Income Americans”

  1. […] On June 8, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) awarded $16.8 million in FINI funding for grant projects that help low-income consumers participating in SNAP purchase more fresh fruits and vegetables through cash incentives, increasing access to fresh, healthy food while increasing markets for local farmers. We are happy to announce that Double SNAP Dollars was one of these programs! You can read more about the FINI program here: http://sustainableagriculture.net/blog/fini-awards-2016/ […]

  2. […] help low-income families and individuals afford more nutritious food, this month’s announcement pushed those programs farther. By investing $16.8 million in the Food Insecurity Nutritional Incentives […]

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