NSAC's Blog

Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentives Program Connects Low-Income Families with Healthy Options

October 21, 2016

Photo credit: USDA

Photo credit: USDA

Every family needs and deserves access to fresh, healthy foods, but for far too many Americans a healthy meal made from fresh ingredients seems like just a dream. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) was designed to help assist lower-income families with food purchases, but because benefit levels are low, purchasing fresh, local produce remains a challenge for many SNAP users.

Authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill, the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentives (FINI) Program provides grants to projects that help low-income families participating in SNAP to purchase more fresh fruits and vegetables. FINI projects do this through cash incentives that increase SNAP users purchasing power, thereby increasing their access to fresh, healthy food while at the same time expanding markets for local farmers.

On Thursday October 20, 2016 The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced a new round of available funding for the FINI program; up to $16.7 million in competitive grant funding for projects that support and incentivize the increased purchase of fruits and vegetable by families and households participating in the SNAP program.

Since 2015, the FINI program has awarded $48.2 million in funding to projects that encourage SNAP families to purchase fresh, healthy foods. $100 million has been allocated for the program between 2014 and 2018. Thursday’s announcement is the third Request for Applications (RFA) released by USDA for this program.

The deadline to submit proposals through grants.gov is, December 12, 2016 at 5:00pm Eastern Standard Time.

FINI in Action

In 2016, California based NSAC member Interfaith Sustainable Food Collaborative (ISFC) was awarded $155,200 for “Multi-Year Community-Based Project” FINI grant. This funding will allow ISFC to provide a dollar-for-dollar match to SNAP participants who purchase fresh fruits and vegetables through their local CSAs and farm stands. ISFC’s project will also provide nutrition education for over 700 SNAP recipients, emphasizing outreach to sites attended by Latino, Southeast Asian and African American populations.

Connecticut based, NSAC member, Wholesome Wave‘s (WW) project approaches FINI from another angle – inside the grocery store. Through their $500,000 “Multi-Year Community-Based Project” FINI grant, WW will work to implement a Farm-to-Grocery Nutrition Incentive model that increases the procurement of locally grown food at participating stores. Their project will also seek to provide coupons for fresh fruits and vegetables that match the value of SNAP dollars spent at those stores.

FINI is jointly administered by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and Food and Nutrition Service.

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

Project Types

Applications will be accepted for three project types:

  • Pilot Projects – one year projects with a grant maximum of $100,000 aimed at new entrants seeking funding for a project in the early stages of incentive program development.
  • Multi-year Community-Based Projects – projects of up to four years with a grant maximum of $500,000 aimed at mid-sized groups developing incentive programs at the local or state level.
  • Multi-year Large Scale Projects – projects of up to four years for grants of $500,000 or more aimed at groups developing multi-county, state, and regional incentive programs.

Requirements for Projects

FINI 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 and incentives under FINI as apply to purchases made by individuals who are not SNAP participants; and
  • Include effective and efficient technologies for benefit redemption systems that may be replicated in other states and communities.

FINI requires a dollar for dollar match of the total cost of the project using cash and/or in-kind contributions. The non-Federal share of the funding may come from State government, local government, or private sources.

Priority Considerations

NIFA will give priority to projects that:

  • Maximize the share of funds used for direct incentives to participants;
  • Test innovative or promising strategies that would contribute to understanding how best to increase the purchase of fruits and vegetables by SNAP participants and would inform future efforts;
  • Develop innovative or improved benefit redemption systems that could 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 culturally appropriate fruits and vegetables for the target audience; and
  • Are located in underserved communities, particularly Promise Zones and StrikeForce communities.

FINI applications must be submitted electronically via the grants.gov website by December 12, 2016 at 5:00pm Eastern Standard Time.

NIFA will host a free informational webinar for interested applicants on Nov. 3, 2016 at 2:00 p.m., ET. An archived version will be available on NIFA’s FINI webpage following the webinar.

For more information on the program requirements, the application process, and priority considerations click here.

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

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