USDA funding helps to modernize technology and advance food and nutrition security in underrepresented communities

5 December, 2023 | OMAHA, NE. – The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced an investment of more than $52 million to improve dietary health and access to fresh fruits and vegetables for eligible families.

The funds support the continued efforts across three National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) competitive grant programs that make up the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program (GusNIP) portfolio. One of these three is the Nutrition Incentive Program Training, Technical Assistance, Evaluation, and Information (NTAE) Center program led by the Center for Nutrition and Health Impact. The NTAE will receive $28 million over four years to continue offering training, technical assistance, evaluation and informational support services to over 200 Nutrition Incentive (NI) and Produce Prescription Program (PPR) grantees nationwide.

The NTAE (also known as the Nutrition Incentive Hub), is led by Center for Nutrition and Health Impact in partnership with Fair Food Network and the University of California San Fransisco. The Nutrition Incentive Hub includes experts from across the field working to resolve systemic barriers in issues like incentive technology while also developing systems, infrastructure, and collaborative networks and relationships to support GusNIP grantees, while building capacity and sustainability. These efforts will help maximize the effectiveness of nutrition incentive and produce prescription projects to:

  • Increasing fruit and vegetable purchase and consumption among program participants
  • Reducing individual and household insecurity
  • Improving the nutrition and health status of participating households
  • Reducing health care use and associated costs

“This new award allows us to showcase our ability to address emerging needs and build capacity with GusNIP as a whole to widen impacts and empower local communities,” said Dr. Amy Yaroch, NTAE project director and executive director of the Center for Nutrition and Health Impact.

Dr. Carmen Byker Shanks, NTAE co-project director and principal research scientist at GSCN added, “The NTAE is committed to ensuring safe and nutritious food for all through innovative work with nutrition incentive and produce prescription projects. In the next four years, we will use a grassroots approach to reach underrepresented communities and geographies, modernize technical assistance and tailor our evaluation to center on diverse communities and participants.”

The NTAE works in tandem with GusNIP nutrition incentive and produce prescription grantees to strengthen their program implementation and create meaningful health-related and economic impacts in the communities served. Specifically, the NTAE helps grantees demonstrate impacts on fruit and vegetable consumption, food and nutrition security, healthcare cost and utilization (produce prescription only), and the local economy while providing real-time support to maximize project success.

“When health care providers prescribe fruits and vegetables, we see improvements in chronic diseases like diabetes,” said Dr. Hilary Seligman, professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, and project lead for NTAE produce prescriptions. “We’re thrilled to lend our expertise to this partnership in order to support community health and well-being.”

The first iteration of GusNIP funded nearly 200 projects from 2019 through 2023. This first year of this next cycle of GusNIP funding (2023) will fund an additional 19 nutrition incentive programs and 11 produce prescription programs.

There are three aims with this round of funding:

  • An emphasis on reaching 28 underrepresented communities and geographies in the United States that currently lack NI/PPR programs. These include rural, remote, insular, and tribal communities; communities of color; LGBTQIA+; individuals with disabilities; Veterans; communities with residents predominantly living under the Federal poverty line.
  • Optimization of the GusNIP audience experience through partnerships and technologies that maximize USDA/NIFA’s return on investment. This includes a new GusNIP Learning Circle that is being developed to inform outreach, capacity building, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility (DEIA)-centered training and technical assistance, reporting and evaluation, and to address emerging needs.
  • Rigorous evaluation centered on DEIA principles. This includes updating the core measures through a community-engaged approach to ensure that measures are culturally tailored and right-sized for the project’s evaluation capacity.

This slide deck  provides an overview of all training, technical assistance and evaluation efforts related to the second iteration of GusNIP, which we are terming GusNIP 2.0.

“We understand that access to nutritious food is just the beginning,” said Holly Parker, chief strategy & program officer at Fair Food Network. “This USDA funding allows us to create a ripple effect into underrepresented communizes by expanding on the already robust resources and technical assistance the NTAE provides. We know from previous research how powerful and wide-reaching healthy incentives are and their proven ROI—for farmers, grocers and the community.”

About the Nutrition Incentive Hub

The Nutrition Incentive Hub is a coalition of partners created by the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program Training, Technical Assistance, Evaluation, and Information Center (GusNIP NTAE Center), which supports nutrition incentive projects, including SNAP incentives, and produce prescription projects.

The GusNIP NTAE Center is led by Center for Nutrition and Health Impact. In partnership with Fair Food Network, they assembled the Nutrition Incentive Hub, a coalition of evaluators, researchers, practitioners, and grocery and farmers market experts from across the country dedicated to strengthening and uniting the best thinking in the field to increase access to affordable and healthy food to those who need it most. The GusNIP NTAE Center is funded through a cooperative agreement and is supported by Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program grant no. 2019-70030-30415/project accession no. 1020863 and grant no. 2023-70414-40461/project accession no. 1031111 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture

About Center for Nutrition and Health Impact

The Center for Nutrition and Health Impact is a nonprofit research institute providing expertise in measurement and evaluation to help develop, enhance, and expand programs focused on healthy eating and active living, improving food and nutrition security and healthy food access, promoting local food systems, and applying a health equity lens in all we do. With expertise in public health nutrition, we are dedicated to building measurement strategies to assess the impact of innovative health-related programs. We work nationally and internationally, partnering with other nonprofits, academia, government, and private foundations to conduct research, evaluation, and scientific strategic planning.

About Fair Food Network

Fair Food Network is a national nonprofit and investor that grows community health and wealth through food. We transform how resources flow through the food economy for a more fair and resilient future. Our approach integrates policy advocacy that brings proven solutions to scale, partnerships that increase our collective impact, and investments in food organizations and businesses that serve their communities. We’re building a world in which everyone has access to healthy choices, economic opportunity, and a resilient environment. We believe that when we start with food, everything else is possible.