June 5, 2020
In May, as the country grappled with an emerging global pandemic and unprecedented demand for food assistance, a national collaboration of organizations working on food systems and healthy food access officially launched the Nutrition Incentive Hub.
Funded through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA), the Nutrition Incentive Hub will serve as a new national resource for training, technical assistance, reporting, and evaluation for those working to launch or expand nutrition incentive programs. This includes SNAP incentive programs as well as produce prescription programs that help participating families purchase more fruits and vegetables.
The 2018 Farm Bill expanded the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentives (FINI) Program by providing permanent, mandatory funding of $250 million over the 5 years and renamed it the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program (GusNIP) in recognition of his life’s work to improve food and farming systems. The farm bill also expanded the scope of the program to include a new Produce Prescription Program and instructed NIFA to establish a Training, Technical Assistance, Information and Evaluation Center which has now been launched, and officially dubbed the Nutrition Incentive Hub.
The Nutrition Incentive Hub is led by Gretchen Swanson Center for Nutrition in partnership with Fair Food Network. Together with NSAC members, Farmers Market Coalition and Michigan Farmers Market Association, they have assembled a coalition of partners to support this work including the National Grocers Association Foundation, Ecology Center, University of Arizona, University of California San Francisco, and University of Michigan, among others.
A national convening to officially kick-off the work of the Nutrition Incentive Hub was originally scheduled for the week of March 16 in Salt Lake City but was successfully transitioned to an on-line conference in a matter of days. Over 160 nutrition incentive practitioners gathered via video conference to hear from USDA and National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) leaders and discuss program technical assistance and evaluation. At the center of the agenda was the immediate impact of the pandemic crisis on programs and the communities they serve and the newly released Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Programs (GusNIP) Request For Applications (RFA).
As the impacts of the pandemic continue to affect all communities, it is more apparent than ever that nutrition incentives will play an important role as the demand for food assistance intensifies. The Nutrition Incentive Hub will facilitate coordination and collaboration with individual programs across the country and identify solutions that deepen program impact. Its timely launch will contribute to the economic viability of local and regional food systems and the health and wellness of families experiencing food insecurity.
As part of the official kick-off of the Nutrition Incentive Hub has made available an online resources toolkit full of resources for nutrition incentive practitioners, researchers, and evaluators that have been developed by the Hub’s coalition of partners.
The toolkit includes resources on the administration of the GusNIP program, reporting and evaluation, webinars and more. The Hub intends to expand this tool kit dramatically over the next few months to include resources on topics on such as; farm direct retail, brick and mortar retail, produce prescription programs, nutrition education, local and regional sourcing/procurement, diversity, equity, and inclusion, marketing and communications, and program sustainability.
While many of the resources of the Hub are focused on the needs of current and prospective GusNIP grantees, the resources developed by the Hub will also be useful and available to non-GusNIP funded SNAP incentive programs and produce prescription programs.
In fiscal year 2019, $41.4 million was awarded to 23 GusNIP grantees that operate nutrition incentive programs in 19 states. The resources made available by the Nutrition Incentive Hub benefit GusNIP grantees, FINI grantees, those applying for future GusNIP grants, and all members of the nutrition incentive field.