USDA provides more funds for fruit and vegetable incentives
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The U.S. Department of Agriculture is again priming the pump for fruit and vegetable demand among low-income consumers.
The government is making available nearly $17 million in grants to help organizations create incentives to increase the purchases of fruits and vegetables by participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
Previous grants have been used by many farmers' markets to create incentives for low income SNAP recipients to purchase more fruits and vegetables, said Kevin Concannon, USDA Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services.
"I think it has been a great success and it is certainly well received in the agricultural world across the country, and certainly we see the enthusiasm for it," he said in late October.
The USDA said the funds will be given to nonprofits and governmental organizations through the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive Grant Program, as authorized by the 2014 farm bill and administered by the
USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The farm bill authorized as much as $200 million in grants for the program.
Concannon said there about 7,000 farmers markets or direct marketing farmers that can process electronic SNAP benefits, up from fewer than 1,000 markets and direct marketing growers with that capability eight years ago.
"We have seen a parallel growth in the numbers of markets around the country that have either what are referred to as Double Up Bucks, Healthy Bucks, or Harvest Bucks," he said.
Those programs reward SNAP beneficiaries when they use their SNAP cards to buy healthy food. While the USDA does not have a firm number of farmers' markets that offer SNAP incentives to purchase fruits and vegetables, Concannon said the number is likely in the hundreds.
Other projects funded by FINI grants have stimulated access to fruits and vegetables in low-income communities with low access to food stores. Others have targeted senior citizens in assisted living communities or public housing.
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