NSAC's Blog

USDA Awards Over $41 Million for Healthy Food Access Projects

November 19, 2019

Fayetteville Public Schools purchases around 35,000 lbs of apples every year from Vanzant Fruit Farm in Lowell, AR. Photo credit: Allyson Mrachek
Fayetteville Public Schools purchases around 35,000 lbs of apples every year from Vanzant Fruit Farm in Lowell, AR. Photo credit: Allyson Mrachek

When it comes to food production, the United States is a land of abundance and plenty. On the food access front, however, the numbers are not very encouraging. One in 10 American households is struggling with food insecurity, meaning that over 100 million low-income, urban and rural Americans cannot afford or have trouble affording healthy foods.

The Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentives Program (GusNIP) — formerly known as the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentives program (FINI) — is one of several U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs working to bridge this gap. GusNIP helps low-income families participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) increase their ability to purchase fruits and vegetables at farmers markets, through CSA’s, and from traditional brick and mortar grocery stores.

The program is authorized through the farm bill and provides grants on a competitive basis to projects that help low-income communities purchase fresh fruits and vegetables directly from farmers. GusNIP is particularly impactful in that it helps both to improve the health of families, while also expanding economic opportunities for family farmers and food producing communities.

The program, which is jointly administered by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), recently awarded $41.4 million in funds for 23 projects in fiscal year (FY) 2019. Awarded projects this cycle include traditional SNAP incentive projects, as well as two exciting new subprograms created by the new farm bill: 1) a produce prescription implementation and evaluation subprogram; and 2) Nutrition Incentive Program Training, Technical Assistance, Evaluation, and Information Centers cooperative agreements.  

This is the first round of funding being offered through GusNIP since passage of the 2018 Farm Bill.

Project Highlights  

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) is excited to announce that three of our member organizations received GusNIP SNAP incentives and produce prescription program awards this cycle: Fair Food Network, Community Farm Alliance, and Sustainable Food Center.

Fair Food Network (FFN), Michigan:

FFN’s award will support the continued expansion of the “Double Up Food Bucks” program in Michigan. FFN is also a lead partner on the cooperative agreement that was awarded to the Gretchen Swanson Center for Nutrition to provide evaluation, training, and technical assistance for nutrition incentive programs nationwide (more on that award below).

Today, Double Up Food Bucks are available at more than 250 grocery stores and farmers markets throughout Michigan. Since 2009, the program has stimulated more than $21 million in combined SNAP and Double Up sales –dollars that directly benefit Michigan farmers and local businesses and bring 13.5 million pounds of healthy food to Michigan families. New federal support, in combination with funding from philanthropy and the State of Michigan, is supporting an ambitious expansion of the program across the State. FFN hopes to leverage this support to bring Double Up to every county in Michigan, and to increase participation from 13 to 30 percent of the State’s SNAP households over the next four years.

“The adoption of nutrition incentive programs has been incredible,” said Kate Krauss, Fair Food Network Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer. “Within a decade, efforts have grown from a handful of pilots to a permanent part of the farm bill with programs in all 50 states. We are excited to help continue this growth through this latest GusNIP funding to benefit even more families and farmers.”

Community Farm Alliance (CFA), Kentucky:

CFA received a Produce Prescription Program grant, which will allow them to partner with Kentucky’s Community Farmers Market and build upon three successful years of produce prescription programming. Community Farmers Market and Community Farm Alliance are together working to establish a regional, multi-location produce prescription program. The goal of this program will be to positively impact the dietary health outcomes of expecting mothers and their infants, as well as support local farmers, through increasing participating families’ access to Kentucky-grown produce.

The program will provide participants with up to $20 a week, from 21 to 40 weeks, to use on Kentucky-grown fresh fruits and vegetables at participating farmers markets.

Sustainable Food Center, (SFC), Texas:

Sustainable Food Center will use their award to support their program, Bolstering and Building Capacity for Double Up Across Texas. This project addresses the urgent health and economic needs of fast-growing communities with high food insecurity in Texas by growing SNAP incentive programs at farmers’ markets, farm stands, mobile markets, and retailers.

The project will initially serve 9,572 SNAP recipients living in the greater Travis (Central) and Harris (Southeast) County regions, partnering with 89 local growers. Sustainable Food Center will translate the lessons learned in growing Double Up Food Bucks in Travis and Harris Counties to serve the rest of the state, building the capacity of entities interested in providing SNAP incentives in their respective communities. Through the project, SFC will bring together local partners on a Statewide Steering Committee and will create and disseminate a toolkit of best practices for direct-to-consumer marketing and incentive programs. A key element of SNAP incentive expansion in Texas is the use of a promotora (Community Health Worker) model of engagement.

“We are thrilled to have received funding for our GusNIP proposal, which will match local investments in SNAP produce incentives that are currently benefitting families and farmers,” said Deputy Director of Sustainable Food Center Joy Casnovsky. “Together with our partners at Urban Harvest, this two year grant lays the groundwork for a network of SNAP incentive programs across the state of Texas.”

Training, Technical Assistance, Evaluation and Information Center

The Gretchen Swanson Center for Nutrition (GSCN) was selected to lead a new, comprehensive evaluation and training center for nutrition incentive programs, the Nutrition Incentive Impact Hub. GSCN will serve as the lead evaluator overseeing reporting and measurement, and will work closely with FFN. FFN will the lead the training and technical assistance aspects of the new Nutrition Incentive Impact Hub.

The Hub will provide tools, program innovations, and help make connections among practitioners serving nutrition incentive programs across the country, SNAP incentive programs, and fruit and vegetable prescription programs. The goal is to boost all incentive programs to ensure that more Americans are able to bring home the healthy food they need to thrive. NSAC members Farmers Market Coalition and Michigan Farmers Market Association are also partners on this grant. 

Goals of the Impact Hub include:

  • 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.

Additional Information

A list of the grantees and their projects is available on the NIFA website at these respective links: GusNIP Pilot Projects, GusNIP ProjectsGusNIP Large-Scale Projects, Produce Prescription, and Nutrition Incentive Program Training, Technical Assistance, Evaluation, and Information Center Funding.

The GusNIP RFA for FY 2019 can be found here.

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

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