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$21 Million to Increase Healthy Food Access in Low-Income Communities

August 17, 2018


A shopper uses SNAP tokens at her local farmers market to pay for fresh groceries. Photo credit: USDA.

Millions of Americans struggle each day to access fresh, nutritious food. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides food-purchasing assistance to low-income individuals across the country to help bridge that gap.

Another program, the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (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 while also enhancing markets for local farmers. On August 2, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced 24 FINI grants totaling $21 million. We congratulate the following National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) member organizations, which received grants for pilot and multi-year projects:

FINI Pilot Projects

(up to $100,000, not to exceed 1 year) 

  • West Virginia Food & Farm Coalition, Inc., West Virginia: $100,000; West Virginia SNAP Stretch Program

The West Virginia SNAP Stretch project increases the purchase of fresh fruit and vegetables by providing incentives for SNAP recipient families. The project puts farmers markets, roadside stands, and community supported agriculture (CSA) outlets at the center, helping to overcome three key food access issues seen in our rural communities: 1) lack of access to grocery stores where fresh produce is present 2) lack of transportation to grocery stores outside of the community 3) financial feasibility of purchasing fresh produce.

“Our project was fueled by the idea to give purchasing power to adults and children,” said Spencer Moss, The WV Food & Farm Coalition Executive Director. “The innovation was in response to survey results from the 2017 WV Kids Pop-Up Market Program, which gave school and daycare children $4 in ‘Kids Coupons’ to buy fruits and vegetables of their choosing from onsite pop-up farmers markets. Parent survey results concluded that the majority of participating children ate all of the produce purchased with their ‘Kid Coupons’ because they had the power to choose. We’re grateful for our friends at WVU Extension Family Nutrition SNAP Education, as they are masterminds behind WV Kids Pop-Up Market Program.”

Terry Hudson, owner and operator of Hudson Farms added, “The beauty of the SNAP Stretch project, is not only that families are receiving a leg up in the ability to afford to choose their food, but West Virginia farmers are earning income as well.”

More information about these projects is available on the NIFA website.

Multi-year community-based projects

(up to $500,000, not to exceed 4 years) 

  • LiveWell Colorado, Colorado: $466,951; Double 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. First, LiveWell is working to diversify the type of partner sites and extending the Double Up Food Bucks program (Double Up) season. Second, they will integrate the promotion and implementation of Double Up into digital platforms. Lastly, LiveWell will use these funds to build regional capacity to support and sustain Double Up.

“We are excited that more Coloradans will be able to benefit from this incredible program,” said Amy Nelms, Food Access Coordinator for LiveWell Colorado. “Making it as accessible as possible for as much of the year as is possible is our goal.”

  • Rural Advancement Foundation International – USA, North Carolina: $363,880; Fresh Bucks EBT Incentive Program

Rural Advancement Foundation International – USA (RAFI-USA) will 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. They 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. Lastly, they will partner with local grocery stores to provide EBT incentives.

“RAFI is very excited to expand upon our existing SNAP incentive program which increases local, healthy food access at rural NC farmers markets and to work with new partners to explore incentive models at food co-ops and mobile markets,” says Lisa Misch, Come to the Table Project Coordinator for RAFI-USA. “We are especially grateful that the FINI grant program provides multi-year funding, creating invaluable stability for our partner markets to invest in finding sustainable solutions to rural food access.”

More information about these projects is available on the NIFA website.

Multi-year large-scale projects

($500,000 or greater, not to exceed 4 years)

  • Fair Food Network, Michigan: $1,544,196; Double Up Food Bucks | Activating Grocery Stores to Serve Hard-To-Reach Communities.

Fair Food Network will expand their Double Up Food Bucks program to grocery stores in five states, reaching nearly one million SNAP recipients. Their FINI funding will help them to launch Double Up at independent grocery stores in Alabama, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and Texas, as well as supporting a nascent farmers markets network in Alabama and Texas. Additionally, Double Up incentives will be integrated into groundbreaking SNAP online purchasing pilots in Alabama and New Jersey. Projects are also focusing on farm-to-grocer links to ensure strong local and regional produce sourcing, a hallmark of the Double Up model.

“Bringing Double Up to grocery stores means more low-income families get more nutritious food grown by American farmers,” said Oran Hesterman, CEO, Fair Food Network. “These stores are anchors of healthy food access in their communities.”

More information about these projects is available on the NIFA website.

FINI is a joint program between the USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). Funding for FINI grants is from the 2014 Farm Bill. The 2014 Farm Bill allocates $100 million to FINI between 2014 and 2018. NSAC will post an announcement when the next round of FINI project funding is made available (for FY 2019).


Categories: Grants and Programs, Local & Regional Food Systems


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