Fair Food Network: ‘Farm bill’s SNAP incentives a bipartisan win for American families & farmers’

11 DECEMBER 2018 | ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Incentives for healthy fruit and vegetable purchases in the farm bill will improve the lives of families across the nation for generations to come, said Fair Food Network Founder and CEO Oran Hesterman.

The bill, which the Senate voted overwhelmingly to approve today, establishes healthy produce incentives as a permanent part of future farm bills. Healthy produce incentives increase the value of SNAP benefits when used to purchase fruits and vegetables. (SNAP stands for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps.)

“SNAP incentives work because they bring people together,” Hesterman said. “They’re a smart way to reduce hunger while boosting nutrition for families and income for farmers, all while keeping more food dollars circulating in the local economy.”

Fair Food Network’s Double Up Food Bucks SNAP incentive program is in more than 250 sites across Michigan including grocery stores, farmers markets, and other retail outlets. It has also become a national model for incentives active in more than 20 states and anchored in local partnerships with food banks, agricultural extension, public health, state agencies, and others.

In 2009, Fair Food Network collaborated with five Detroit farmers markets to field test SNAP incentives in Michigan; it was first tried in New York five years earlier. Double Up soon grew to the first statewide SNAP incentive program and was one of the first to move into grocery stores. Its track record of success for families and farmers helped inspire the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) program in the 2014 farm bill.

In the new farm bill, FINI is renamed the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program, in honor of the late Under Secretary of Agriculture. In drafting the bill, Congressional leaders noted, “Mr. Schumacher was a magnificent advocate for farmers and families and saw the importance in building access and affordability through incentive programs.”

Hesterman singled out the leadership of Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI). “Sen. Stabenow is a longtime champion for families and American farmers, and you see that throughout this legislation.” He also applauded the support of Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS), House leadership Rep. Mike Conaway (R-TX), and Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN).

“SNAP incentives are a win for families and for farmers—which means they’re a win for the American people,” Hesterman said. “We need more wins like it. It’s proof both parties can come together to work for the good of the country.”

The farm bill is a crucial piece of legislation that supports the food security of millions of American families, invests in rural communities, provides funding for beginning, veteran, socially disadvantaged farmers, supports critical conservation programs, and advances sustainable local and regional food systems.

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Fair Food Network is a national nonprofit that connects people to the power of food to improve health, ignite local economies, and open opportunities for all — especially in our most underserved communities.