Fruit and Vegetables in SNAP
The Supplemental Nutrition and Access Program (SNAP) represents the nation’s largest nutrition safety net program, providing millions of Americans – about half of whom are children – with benefits to purchase food and beverages. Federal dollars are allocated to states, which distribute benefits monthly or bimonthly to recipients to purchase eligible foods at SNAP-approved retailers.
The SNAP program is authorized every five years in the Farm Bill and represents approximately 80% of Farm Bill spending.
During the last Farm Bill (2014), United Fresh worked with Congress to secure funding over five years for the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) grants. FINI projects are awarded to nonprofits working with retailers like farmers’ markets and grocery stores to provide incentives through the form of fruit and vegetable vouchers to SNAP participants. For example, a SNAP consumer enrolled in the program might purchase $8 in fruits or vegetables. At the point of sale – the customer would receive a voucher to redeem $8 for fruits and vegetables during a future visit. FINI projects are awarded at different levels:
- Pilot Projects (awards not to exceed a total of $100,000 over one year);
- Multi-year, community-based Projects (awards not to exceed a total of $500,000 over no more than four years);
- Multi-year, Large-Scale Projects (awards of $500,000 or more over no more than four years)
Fiscal Year 2015: $31 million
Fiscal Year 2016: $16.8 million
Fiscal Year 2017: $16.8 million
Over three-quarters of Americans across all income levels do not meet daily recommendations for fruit and vegetable consumption. This can be even higher for SNAP consumers. United Fresh believes more can be done – and more needs to be known – about how to increase consumption of fruits and vegetables in the nation’s nutrition programs, including SNAP.
Providing incentives for SNAP families to help make half the plate fruits and vegetables is a good start. Currently, 85 percent of all SNAP benefits are redeemed in grocery stores. Scaling up produce incentives in grocery stores in underserved communities presents a significant opportunity to ensure SNAP families access to a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables year round.
United Fresh urges Congress and USDA to:
- Prioritize FINI projects to retailers where SNAP participants have access to a wide variety of fruits and vegetables and can earn and redeem produce incentives year-round
- Clarify that FINI incentives can only be used for fruits and vegetables and not any SNAP-eligible food product
- Further clarify what a FINI eligible fruit/vegetable to make this consistent with the fruits and vegetables on the WIC Approved Products List.
- Establish a center or clearinghouse that provides technical assistance, training and best practices to potential and existing FINI grant recipients, including brick and mortar and traditional retailers.
- Allocate funding for research on retail and benefit strategies that could improve nutrition for SNAP consumers.