The Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program


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

Increasing low-income communities’ abilities to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables helps to improve the health of families, and also expands economic opportunities for farmers. The Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program (GusNIP), formerly known as the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentives (FINI) Program, provides grants on a competitive basis to projects that help low-income consumers access and purchase fresh fruits and vegetables through “cash” incentives that increase their purchasing power at locations like farmers markets.

Learn More about GusNIP:

Program Basics

Created in the 2014 Farm Bill and later expanded in the 2018 Farm Bill, GusNIP provides competitively awarded grants to nonprofit organizations and government agencies for projects that increase the purchase of fruits and vegetables by low-income consumers by providing “cash” incentives at the point of purchase.

The expanded version of the program offers three distinct funding opportunities for eligible entities:

  • SNAP Incentives: Competitive grants for projects that use point-of-sale fruit and vegetable incentives to help low-income consumers participating in SNAP to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables at locations such as farmers markets, CSAs, and local retail grocers.
  • Produce Prescription Programs: Competitive grants for projects that provide “prescriptions” for fresh 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.
  • Training, Technical Assistance, Evaluation and Information Center(s): Cooperative agreements to establish training, technical assistance evaluation and information 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 evaluations processes.

GusNIP is jointly administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and Food and Nutrition Service (FNS).

Eligibility

SNAP Incentives

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

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 is 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 Program

This new subprogram provides competitive grant funding to eligible entities for projects to: conduct and evaluate the impact of produce prescriptions projects 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 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. Healthcare 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 Program projects 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 Center(s) 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.

The Program in Action

Since 2015, GusNIP (formerly FINI) has provided over $100 million to over 110 different projects in 38 states across the country. Some FINI grants have been multi-state projects, wherein funding was provided directly to an organization located in one state, but project implementation took place across additional states. For instance, no organizations based in Kansas or Mississippi have directly received FINI funding, but they have been served by other regional projects funded in adjacent states.

The following are examples of ways in which organizations have utilized GusNIP or FINI in the past:

  • West Virginia Food & Farm Coalition (WV) was awarded a $100,000 Pilot Program Grant to support the 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 centers farmers markets, roadside stands, and community supported agriculture (CSA) outlets, helping them to overcome three key food access issues seen in 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, and 3) financial feasibility of purchasing fresh produce.
  • 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 throughout the Bay Area.
  • Community Farm Alliance (KY) was awarded a $602,159 Multi-Year Large-Scale Project to merge Community Farm Alliance’s (CFA) farmers’ market Double Dollars Program and Bluegrass Farm to Table’s FINI-piloted Bluegrass Double Dollars Program. Combining these two programs will allow CFA to create a comprehensive, statewide incentive program to increase the purchase and consumption of Kentucky-grown produce among low-income individuals.
  • Fair Food Network (MI) was awarded $3.5 million to assist more than 172,000 food-insecure individuals by scaling a highly innovative and efficient form of the successful Double Up Healthy Food Incentive program. Specifically, the proposed project will implement three core innovations: widespread implementation in grocery stores; high-tech e-incentive card systems; and interoperability across retail locations, allowing SNAP users more choice in how they earn and use incentives.
  • 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. 

Learn more about FINI awarded projects on NSAC’s blog:

How to Apply and Program Resources  

Each year, NIFA publishes a Request for Applications (RFA) in the Federal Register to solicit applications from eligible organizations; there is no set timeframe for when the RFA is released. Each RFA typically gives applicants around 60 days to prepare and submit their applications for funding. Interested applicants should follow the instructions on NIFA’s GusNIP landing page. Registration is required in various systems prior to submitting a final application, and applications must be submitted electronically through www.grants.gov.

Upon submission, NIFA will evaluate each application in a two-part process: (1) an eligibility screening, and (2) review and scoring by a panel of peer reviewers.

REMINDER: 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 for SNAP Incentive projects, but not for Produce Prescription Program projects or Information Center(s) cooperative agreements.

NIFA regularly hosts webinars for potential applicants as part of the RFA process. For more information regarding webinars and other trainings for prospective applicants visit NIFA’s website and check the most recent RFA.

Program History, Funding, and Farm Bill Changes

FINI was initially created in the 2014 Farm Bill, and was provided with $100 million in mandatory funding to be spent over the life of that bill. The 2018 Farm Bill reauthorized, expanded and renamed FINI (now the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentives Program) in honor of longtime friend to NSAC, former USDA Under Secretary, and Wholesome Wave co-founder Gus Schumacher. Schumacher was lauded in the conference committee report as “a magnificent advocate for farmers and families (who) saw the importance in building access and affordability through incentive programs.”

The 2018 Farm Bill provides the expanded program with permanent, mandatory funding, including $250 million over the next 5 years. In addition to providing the program with a substantial increase in mandatory funding, the new farm bill also expands the scope of the program to include a new Produce Prescription Program subprogram. The new subprogram will receive up to ten percent of the annual mandatory funding made available each year for GusNIP. The 2018 Farm Bill also instructs NIFA to establish Training, Technical Assistance, Information and Evaluation Center(s) through cooperative agreement(s), and reserves up to $38 million over 5 years for the establishment and maintenance of the Information Center(s).

Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentives Program Funding 

Fiscal Year Total Mandatory Funding Available (in millions)
2019 $45
2020 $48
2021 $48
2022 $53
2023 $56
5 yr total $250
10 yr total $500

Authorizing Language

Section 4205 of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 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 May 2019.