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$31 Million Awarded for Programs Assisting Fruit and Vegetable Purchases by SNAP Participants

April 1, 2015

Today in Orlando, Florida, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced $31.5 million in funding for the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) program. FINI grants are awarded to organizations to advance incentive programs to improve the nutrition and health status of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) households.

Authorized in the 2014 Farm Bill, FINI is a joint effort between the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS). FNS overseas SNAP, and is responsible for evaluating the effectiveness of incentive programs and NIFA manages the program. Overall, the USDA funded 31 projects in 26 states, using the combined farm bill funds for the fiscal years 2014 and 2015. The 2014 Farm Bill authorized $100 million for FINI between 2014 and 2018, including $35 million for 2014 and 2015 combined.

FINI boosts economic opportunities for farmers while improving the health of low income communities. Specifically, by providing incentives at the point of purchase, the goals of FINI grants are to increase fruit and vegetable purchases among SNAP participants. Matching funds at participating markets in low income neighborhoods simultaneously improves access of healthy foods in underserved areas while reducing affordability barriers to buying fruits and vegetables.

Types of Grants Available

Three separate types of grants were awarded — pilot projects, multi-year community-based projects, and multi-year large-scale projects. Among all of the grants, priority was given to innovative approaches to improve benefit redemption systems, use of direct-t0-consumer marketing, incentive program experience, and programs located in underserved communities.

Large-Scale Projects will test strategies to better inform how healthy food incentives can best promote fruits and vegetable consumption by SNAP participants. They are meant to support multi-county, statewide, and regional programs and are meant to expand the breadth, scope, or reach of existing programs. Over $27 million was awarded to 8 such projects in Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Florida, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, and Washington, including three to NSAC member groups:

  • Fair Food Network based out of 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 received $3.8 million 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. Additionally, Wholesome Wave received over $750,000 as a subgrantee on other FINI grants including projects by the AARP Foundation, Florida Certified Organic Growers, Green Mountain Farm-to-School, and Maine Farmland Trust.
  • Florida Certified Organic Growers and Consumers (FOG) received $1.9 million 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. Marty Mesh, Executive Director of FOG was featured at the USDA awards announcement in Orlando.

Multi-Year Community Based Projects receive up to $500,000 for a project not exceeding four years. These projects are aimed for mid-sized organizations with prior experience implementing incentive programs to support community-based food projects at the local or state level. The programs were awarded $2.5 million collectively for programs in Washington, Utah, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Maine, Louisiana, and California. For instance:

  • 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 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.

Pilot Projects are for one year  projects for new entrants in the early stages of incentive program development and can award up to $100,000. Sixteen of these projects were awarded throughout California, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Vermont, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Georgia, Illinois, Idaho, Hawaii, North Carolina, and Texas. These pilot programs help to start incentive projects for SNAP participants, expand existing programs into to new communities, provide technical assistance to retailers, or test the effectiveness of different interventions.

  • The Green Mountain Farm-to-School project 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.

The 2016 FINI Request For Application (RFA) has not yet been posted but the 2014-2015 RFA can be viewed here. Full abstracts for the 2014-2015 funded programs are posted here on NIFA’s website.

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

One response to “$31 Million Awarded for Programs Assisting Fruit and Vegetable Purchases by SNAP Participants”

  1. Thank you so much for the information. I’m so glad to see more possibilities for food benefit recipients. I look forward to seeing the projects that come out of this program.