Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentives


Helping low-income families purchase fresh fruits and veggies directly from farmers

Increasing low-income communities’ abilities to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables not only helps to improve the health of families, but also expands economic opportunities for farmers. The Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentives (FINI) Program provides grants on a competitive basis to projects that help low-income consumers participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) purchase more fresh fruits and vegetables through cash incentives that increase their purchasing power at locations like farmers markets.

Learn More about FINI!

Program Basics
Created in the 2014 Farm Bill, the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentives Program (FINI) provides competitively awarded grants to nonprofit organizations and government agencies, including agricultural cooperatives, farmers markets, community-supported agriculture programs (CSAs), SNAP-authorized retailers, emergency feeding organizations, community health organizations, and economic development corporations, among others, for projects that increase the purchase of fruits and vegetables by low-income consumers participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by providing cash incentives at the point of purchase.

The 2014 Farm Bill provides FINI with $100 million in mandatory funding between 2014-2018. USDA released the first Request for Applications (RFA) for 2014-2015 in September 2014, which made $31.5 million available in grants from combined funding for fiscal years (FY) 2014 and 2015.  The inaugural round of awards was announced in April 2015.

Eligibility

Applications are accepted for the following three types of projects:

(1) FINI Pilot Projects are one-year projects with a grant maximum of $100,000 that are aimed at new entrants seeking funding for a project in the early stages of incentive program development.

(2) FINI Multi-year Community Based Projects are projects of up to four years with a grant maximum of $500,000 that are aimed at local groups developing incentive programs at the local or state level.

(3) FINI Multi-year Large-Scale Projects are projects of up to four years with a maximum of $500,000 that are aimed at groups developing multi-county, state, and regional incentive programs.

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 the FINI comprehensive program evaluation
  • 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
  • Include effective and efficient technologies for benefit redemption systems that may be replicated in other states and communities.

Only government agencies and nonprofit organizations are eligible to apply for funding through FINI. Such eligible applicants may 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

In addition, applicants must meet the following requirements:

(1) have experience either in efforts to reduce food insecurity in the community, including food distribution, improving access to services, and coordinating services and programs, or experience with the SNAP program;

(2) demonstrate competency to implement a project, provide fiscal accountability, collect data, and prepare reports and other necessary documentation;

(3) secure the commitment of the State SNAP agency to cooperate with the project; and

(4) possess a demonstrated willingness to share information with researchers, evaluators (including the independent evaluator for the program), practitioners, and other interested parties, including a plan for dissemination of results to stakeholders.

The Program in Action

The inaugural round of FINI awards was announced in April 2015.  $31.5 million in funding was awarded to 31 projects in 26 states using the combined farm bill funds for fiscal years 2014 and 2015. Three separate types of grants were awarded — pilot projects, multi-year community-based projects, and multi-year large-scale projects.

Over $27 million was awarded to 8 large-scale projects in Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Florida, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, and Washington.  Among the large-scale project awardees granted funding include:

  • Fair Food Network, based in Ann Arbor, Michigan is using a $5.2 million award to expand their Double Up Food Bucks into retail grocery markets as well as being year-round and implementing electronic technology instead of tokens.
  • Wholesome Wave, based in Bridgeport, Connecticut, is using a $3.8 million award to continue their expansion of incentives program building capacity with the over 30 community partners. In addition to reaching 110,000 SNAP consumers, these incentives are estimated to benefit 3,400 small and mid-sized farms via 364 farmers markets, 23 CSA programs, and 38 mobile markets. Extensive evaluation on the efficacy of incentives programs will also be undertaken as part of the grant.
  • Florida Certified Organic Growers and Consumers (FOG), based in Gainesville, Florida, is using a $1.9 million award to expand their Fresh Access Bucks to 50 markets across Florida. Expected to reach 18,564 SNAP participants over three years, the program will reach at least 21 separate counties within the state.

Multi-year community-based projects in Washington, Utah, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Maine, Louisiana, and California were collectively awarded $2.5 million.  Among the community-based project awardees granted funding include:

  • The Maine Farmland Trust was awarded $249,816 for their project incentivizing SNAP consumers to increase local purchasing of fruits and vegetables from Maine producers by aggregating products at retailers and co-ops.
  • Mandela Marketplace in Oakland, California is using $422,500 to promote their electronic incentive program for use in SNAP retailers. These retailers include healthy retail corner store conversions and market booths operating as part of Mandela Health and Wealth Network locally-owned food system.

Sixteen pilot projects were awarded throughout California, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Vermont, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Georgia, Illinois, Idaho, Hawaii, North Carolina, and Texas.  Among the pilot project awardees granted funding include:

  • The Green Mountain Farm-to-School in Newport, Vermont will use $93,750 to utilize coupon incentive program and consumer marketing campaign to increase the purchasing of fruits and vegetables by SNAP participants in retail stores.
  • The Rodale Institute in Kutztown, Pennsylvania is using their $46,442 grant to provide dollar for dollar matches when purchasing organic fruits and vegetables through SNAP in Allentown, PA.

Learn more about FINI awarded projects:

How to Apply and Program Resources  

Interested applicants should follow the instructions listed in the Request for Applications on the FINI page below. Registration is required in various systems prior to submitting one’s application and applications must be uploaded to www.grants.gov.

Additionally, three webinars are available through USDA to assist applicants to the FINI program:

NIFA plans to evaluate each application in a 2-part process: (1) an eligibility screening and (2) review and scoring by a panel of peer reviewers.

A cash or in-kind match of non-federal funds, in an amount equal to 50 percent of the total cost of the project, is required.

Finally, priority will be given to projects that:

  • Maximize the share of funds used for direct incentives to participants;
  • Use direct-to-consumer sales marketing;
  • Test innovative or promising strategies that contribute to understanding how best to increase the purchase of fruits and vegetables by SNAP participants and that inform future efforts;
  • Develop innovative or improved benefit redemption systems that can be replicated or scaled;
  • 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, especially those that are culturally appropriate for the target audience; or
  • Are located in underserved communities, in particular Promise Zones or Strikeforce communities

Program History, Funding, and Farm Bill Changes

The FINI program is a new initiative that was created in the Agricultural Act of 2014, also known as the 2014 Farm Bill, and provided with $100 million in mandatory funding over the life of the farm bill (2014-2018) in varying amounts.

Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentives Program Funding 

Fiscal Year Total Mandatory Funding Available (in millions)
2014-2015 *$35
2016 $20
2017 $20
2018 $25
5 yr total $100

*$35 million is allocated for Fiscal Years 2014 and 2015 combined.

Authorizing Language

Section 4208 of Agricultural Act of 2014 amends Section 4405 of the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008, to be codified at 7 U.S.C. Section 7517. 


Last updated in October 2016.