United States Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced Wednesday, April 1 at a at a press conference in Orlando that Florida Organic Growers (FOG) was a recipient of a Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) grant.
The Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) Grant Program supports projects to increase the purchase of fruits and vegetables among low-income consumers participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by providing incentives at the point of purchase. This new program was part of the 2014 Farm Bill and is the first time there has been federal legislation that has supported programs of this type. This grant program is funded at $100 million over 5 years.
The Secretary, who made the announcement at Freshfields Farm, said, “Encouraging low income families to put more healthy food in their grocery baskets is part of USDA’s ongoing commitment to improving the diet and health of all Americans.” Vilsack continued, “These creative community partnerships also benefit regional food producers and local economies along with SNAP participants.”
FOG’s proposal, “Fresh Access Bucks: Increasing Food Access And Florida Farmer Sales At Markets Statewide” will serve 50 markets over a 3-year period located in at least 21 counties throughout Florida. FOG works in partnership with markets in low-income communities, supportive community organizations, private businesses, and state and local government agencies to implement this program.
Fresh Access Bucks (FAB) increases the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables by providing economic incentives at the point of purchase for SNAP participants. FAB enables farmers markets to accept EBT and allows SNAP users to purchase double their food dollars for fresh, Florida-grown fruits and vegetables at farmers markets.
“This program was developed with the support of anti-hunger, faith-based, farm-related and nonprofit organizations working together to figure out how to make healthier foods available to SNAP recipients,” said FOG Executive Director Marty Mesh. “It was a multi-year, broad-based effort to get to this day and we are thankful for the partners who stood by us.”
This project will benefit more than 18,000 SNAP recipients throughout Florida and will increase farmer revenue by $2.1 million.
Since the program’s inception in 2013, more than $200,000 was generated in revenue for Florida grown fruits and vegetables, more than 150 Florida farmers participated and expanded to more than 3,000 new market shoppers.
“There are many benefits to FAB,” said Carmen Franz, FOG Community Food Project Coordinator and manager of the FAB program. “Families eat more fruits and vegetables when they’re accessible and affordable, and simply taste better than food shipped long distances. Shopping at farmers markets also strengthens the local economy as it keeps more money circulating in the community, making it more resilient in economic downturns. It’s a win-win for everyone.”