- The USDA announced Tuesday $59.4 million in new funding for programs under the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program (GusNIP) that are focused on increasing access to fresh fruits and vegetables.
- From the USDA’s American Rescue Plan funding for GusNIP, $20.7 million is going toward the Produce Prescription Program, which allows healthcare providers to “prescribe” fresh fruits and vegetables. An additional $38.7 million is earmarked for projects that let eligible participants in SNAP and other USDA nutrition assistance programs receive incentives when purchasing produce.
- The investment is one of the commitments outlined by the Biden administration in its recently unveiled national strategy to address hunger, nutrition and access to healthy and affordable food, the USDA noted.
The investment will support 43 proposals linked to the Produce Prescription Program, of which 95% are first-time applicants to that program, and eight GusNIP Nutrition Incentive projects.
One of the projects receiving funding will help The Farmers Market Fund in Portland, Oregon, expand its Double up Food Bucks program. Across nearly every county in the state, participants at 80 farmers markets, 10 farm stands, 45 grocery stores and 40 Community Supported Agriculture models will get a dollar-for-dollar incentive at the point of purchase next year and 2024.
In another example, Crossroads Community Food Network, in partnership with a local co-op in Takoma Park, Maryland, is receiving funding to launch “Year-Round Fresh Checks” to expand access to affordable fresh fruits and vegetables in a primarily immigrant neighborhood outside Washington, D.C. That project is expected to impact 3,000 SNAP users and plans to match the expected $450,000 in spending with nutrition incentives. The match is coming from $250,000 in federal grants and $200,000 of state and local dollars.
“By understanding the lived experiences of their community, they help deliver USDA programs into the hands of the people who need them most,” Dr. Chavonda Jacobs-Young, USDA Chief Scientist and Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics, said in a statement about the Crossroads Community Food Network project.
Because of additional funding provided through the American Rescue Plan Act, the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture is expanding its reach to “many first-time program applicants from underrepresented communities nationwide,” Dr. Dionne Toombs, acting director of the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, said in the announcement.
Earlier this year, the USDA unveiled a new framework to improve the country’s food system that includes investments in making nutritious food more accessible and affordable. That plan included investments slated for the GusNIP Produce Prescriptions Program ($40 million), SNAP technology improvements ($25 million) and the creation of a new Healthy Food Incentive Fund ($100 million) to help school food authorities offer more nutritious school meals to children.
The USDA’s announcement links to the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health in September and the Biden administration’s national strategy, which outlines actions the federal government plans to take to address hunger and diet-related diseases by 2030.
Several grocers and technology providers have recently announced pledges to tackle food accessibility barriers, some of which stem from the White House’s emphasis on this area.
Giant Food and Stop & Shop have separately linked with About Fresh to allow participants of its Fresh Connect program to use prepaid debit cards to buy “prescribed” fresh food by healthcare providers. DoorDash has teamed up with nonprofit organization Brighter Bites to make it easier for children and their families in New York City, Houston and Washington, D.C., to access fresh produce.