NSAC's Blog

New Grant Funding Available to Encourage SNAP Participants to Buy from Local Produce Farmers

September 29, 2014

On Monday, September 29, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) released  its very first request for applications (RFA) for the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentives (FINI) Grant program, a new competitive grants program created in the 2014 Farm Bill to improve the health of low-income communities while boosting economic opportunities for farmers.  U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced the $31.5 million in available funding earlier today with Virginia First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe in Richmond.  The deadline to submit proposals is December 15, 2014.

About FINI

FINI helps to increase the purchase of fruits and vegetables by low-income consumers participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by providing incentives at the point of purchase.   The program is a joint effort of NIFA and the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS).  Today’s RFA combines funding for fiscal years 2014 and 2015 for a total of about $31.5 million available for awards.  The 2014 Farm Bill allocated $100 million for FINI between 2014 and 2018, including $35 million for fiscal years 2014 and 2015 combined.

While FINI is a new program, providing incentives fruit and vegetable purchases among low-income SNAP consumers is not a completely new concept.  The FINI RFA comes on the heels of a recently released FNS evaluation report on the Healthy Incentives Pilot (HIP).  HIP helped provide financial incentives for 7,500 randomly selected families receiving SNAP benefits in Hampden County, Massachusetts.  Read the entire HIP evaluation report here

For years, several groups around the country have been running their own incentive programs to encourage increased fruit and vegetable purchases at direct-to-consumer outlets such as farmers markets.  Fair Food Network (FFN), an NSAC member based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, provides low-income consumers using SNAP benefits a match of up to $20 in Double Up Food Bucks tokens to purchase Michigan-grown fruits and vegetables at farmers markets and grocery stores as part of its Double Up Food Bucks program.  Launched in 2010, the Double Up Food Bucks program grew out of a Detroit-based pilot program that was started in 2009.  Wholesome Wave, another NSAC member organization based in Bridgeport, CT, launched the Double Value Coupon Program in three states in 2008.  The program matches nutrition benefits spent at participating farmers markets with a monetary incentive consumers can spend on fruits and vegetables.  Today, the program exists at over 350 farmers markets in 21 states and the District of Columbia.

Applications will be accepted for three project types:

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 Projects: are projects of up to four years with a grant maximum of $500,000 that are aimed at mid-sized groups developing incentive programs at the local or state level.

3) FINI 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.

FINI requires a dollar for dollar match of the total cost of the project using cash and/or in-kind contributions, including certain direct costs outlined in the RFA.

How to Apply

Only nonprofit organizations and government agencies  are eligible to apply for FINI grants, including state, local, and tribal agencies as well as incorporated NGOs, farmers markets, community supported agriculture programs, agricultural cooperatives, public benefit corporations, and producer networks or associations, among others.  See the RFA for a full list of eligible applicants.

While for-profits including grocery stores are not eligible for grants, participating SNAP recipients can use the incentives at any authorized SNAP retailer that is participating in one of the FINI-funded projects.

Applications must be submitted electronically via the Grants.gov website.  For an overview of the Grants.gov application process please see this link.

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 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.

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 our understanding of how best to increase the purchase of fruits and vegetables by SNAP participants, that would inform future efforts
  • Develop innovative or improved benefit redemption systems that could be replicated or scaled
  • Use direct-to-consumer sales marketing
  • 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
  • Are located in underserved communities, particularly Promise Zones and StrikeForce communities.

For more information on FINI and the application process, please see the Request for Application available at this link.

Additionally, NIFA will be hosting a webinar reviewing the RFA and match requirements this Thursday, October 2 at 2 p.m. Eastern Time.  The webinar can be accessed at this link and will be recorded and posted to the FINI webpage, which is available at this link.

The FINI application must be submitted electronically via the Grants.gov website by December 15, 2014 at 5 p.m Eastern Time.

Categories: Farm Bill, Grants and Programs, Local & Regional Food Systems, Nutrition & Food Access

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