ORLANDO, Fla., April 1, 2015 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that USDA has awarded $31.5 million in funding to local, state, and national organizations to support programs that help participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) increase their purchase of fruits and vegetables. Recognizing that all Americans fall well short of the servings of fruits and vegetables recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the grants will test incentive strategies to help SNAP participants better afford fruits and vegetables. These grants were made through the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) program authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill.

The Secretary, who made the announcement at the Freshfields Farm market in Orlando, 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."

FINI is a joint effort between USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and USDA's Food and Nutrition Service, which oversees SNAP and has responsibility for evaluating the effectiveness of the incentive projects. FINI brings together stakeholders from distinct parts of the food system and fosters understanding of how they might improve the nutrition and health status of SNAP households. The awards under FINI represent a variety of projects, including relatively small pilot projects, multi-year community-based projects, and larger-scale multi-year projects.

USDA is funding projects in 26 states for up to 4 years, using funds from FY2014 and FY2015. USDA will issue a separate request for applications in FY16, and in subsequent years. Fiscal year 2014 and 2015 awards are:

Pilot projects (up to $100,000, not to exceed 1 year):

  • Yolo County Department of Employment and Social Services, Woodland, Calif., $100,000
  • Heritage Ranch, Inc., Honaunau, Hawaii, $100,000
  • Backyard Harvest, Inc., Moscow, Idaho, $10,695
  • City of Aurora, Aurora, Ill., $30,000
  • Forsyth Farmers' Market, Inc., Savannah, Ga., $50,000
  • Blue Grass Community Foundation, Lexington, Ky., $47,250
  • Lower Phalen Creek Project, Saint Paul, Minn., $45,230
  • Vermont Farm-to-School, Inc., Newport, V.T., $93,750
  • New Mexico Farmers Marketing Association, Santa Fe, N.M., $99,999
  • Santa Fe Community Foundation, Santa Fe, N.M., $100,000
  • Guilford County Department of Health and Human Services, Greensboro, N.C., $99,987
  • Chester County Food Bank, Exton, Pa., $76,543
  • Nurture Nature Center, Easton, Pa., $56,918
  • Rodale Institute, Kutztown, Pa., $46,442
  • Rhode Island Public Health Institute, Providence, R.I., $100,000
  • San Antonio Food Bank, San Antonio, Texas, $100,000

Multi-year community-based projects (up to $500,000, not to exceed 4 years):

  • Mandela Marketplace, Inc., Oakland, Calif., $422,500
  • Market Umbrella, New Orleans, La., $378,326
  • Maine Farmland Trust, Belfast, Maine, $249,816
  • Farmers Market Fund, Portland, Ore., $499,172
  • The Food Trust, Philadelphia, Pa., $500,000
  • Utahns Against Hunger, Salt Lake City, Utah, $247,038
  • Opportunity Council, Bellingham, Wash., $301,658

Multi-year large-scale projects ($500,000 or greater, not to exceed 4 years):

  • Ecology Center, Berkeley, Calif., $3,704,287
  • Wholesome Wave Foundation Charitable Ventures, Inc., Bridgeport, Conn., $3,775,700
  • AARP Foundation, Washington, D.C., $3,306,224
  • Florida Certified Organic Growers and Consumers, Gainesville, Fla., $1,937,179
  • Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance, Boston, Mass., $3,401,384
  • Fair Food Network, Ann Arbor, Mich., $5,171,779
  • International Rescue Committee, Inc., New York, N.Y., $564,231
  • Washington State Department of Health, Tumwater, Wash., $5,859,307

The announcement featured Marty Mesh, Executive Director of Florida Certified Organic Growers and Consumers (FOG). With FINI funding, FOG will expand its Fresh Access Bucks program, which allows SNAP participants to double their food dollars for fresh, Florida-grown fruits and vegetables at farmers markets around the state.

An evaluation of the funded projects will help policymakers determine how best to provide incentives to SNAP participants to increase healthy purchases. Priority was given to projects that develop innovative or improved benefit redemption systems that can be replicated, use direct-to-consumer marketing, show previous success implementing nutrition incentive programs that connect low-income consumers with agricultural producers, provide locally- or regionally-produced fruits and vegetables, and are located in underserved communities.

All FINI projects must (1) have the support of a state SNAP agency; (2) increase the purchase of fruits and vegetables by SNAP participants by providing incentives at the point of purchase; (3) operate through authorized SNAP retailers; (4) agree to participate in the comprehensive FINI program evaluation; (5) ensure that the same terms and conditions apply to purchases made by both SNAP participants and non-participants; and (6) include effective and efficient technologies for benefit redemption systems that may be replicated in other states and communities.

The FINI program is authorized and funded by the 2014 Farm Bill. The Farm Bill builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past six years, while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for taxpayers. Since enactment, USDA has made significant progress to implement each provision of this critical legislation, including providing disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; strengthening risk management tools; expanding access to rural credit; funding critical research; establishing innovative public-private conservation partnerships; developing new markets for rural-made products; and investing in infrastructure, housing and community facilities to help improve quality of life in rural America. For more information, visit

SNAP — the nation's first line of defense against hunger — helps put food on the table for millions of families experiencing hardship. The program has never been more critical to the fight against hunger. Over 60 percent of SNAP participants are children, elderly, or individuals with disabilities, and 42 percent of participants live in households in which at least one adult is working but still cannot afford to put sufficient food on the table. SNAP benefits provided help to millions who lost their jobs during the Great Recession. For many, SNAP benefits provide temporary assistance, with the average new applicant remaining on the program 12 months.

Through federal funding and leadership for research, education and extension programs, NIFA focuses on investing in science and solving critical issues impacting people's daily lives and the nation's future. More information can be found on the NIFA website.

GDF represents a client building a public farm market in Shelbyville, Indiana.  News of this initiative will be forthcoming.