On Sept. 29 in Richmond, Va., the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that $31.5 million will be available to assist those who participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to easily access and afford fruits and vegetables. The funding will come from the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture through the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive Program, which was established in the 2014 Farm Bill. SNAP recipients encounter many barriers when accessing healthy foods, such as finding fresh fruits and vegetables. However, this program will involve stakeholders to work together to improve healthy eating among SNAP participants and remove the barriers that they face.
Grant recipients will work closely with others at the community level to initiate pilot projects as well as large-scale and multi-year projects. These pilot projects will work closely with the SNAP agency within the specific state and may include incentives for SNAP participants by working with SNAP retailers, improving marketing for healthier food options and supporting for local and regional agricultural producers. In addition, these incentives will make their products more accessible to SNAP participants, which specifically targets underserved communities.
A goal of SNAP is to replicate the successful initiatives that this funding supports. This may be technological advances of the benefit system or the increase in purchases of local and regional agricultural products by SNAP participants. Ultimately, the outcome for the projects that receive the funding will be an increase in fruit and vegetable consumption among SNAP participants that is sustained well beyond after the project has ended.
Stephanie Simms is the School Nutrition Policy Fellow for the National PTA.