USDA selects Gretchen Swanson Center for Nutrition & Fair Food Network as leads for new national evaluation and technical assistance center
Award part of GusNIP effort supporting nutrition incentive programs, expanded in 2019 Farm Bill
6 November 2019 | ANN ARBOR, Mich.—Gretchen Swanson Center for Nutrition (GSCN) and Fair Food Network announced today that they have been selected by U.S. Department of Agriculture to lead a four-year effort to provide evaluation, training, and technical assistance for nutrition incentive programs that support families in bringing home more nutritious fruits and vegetables.
Nutrition incentives include SNAP incentives as well as produce prescriptions both aimed at increasing the purchase of fruits and vegetables by low-income consumers. (SNAP is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps.)
GSCN will serve as the lead evaluator overseeing reporting and measurement, while Fair Food Network will lead training and technical assistance providing tools, program innovations, and connections among practitioners. This $31 million grant is part of the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program, or GusNIP (formerly known as the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive or FINI program), named for the late former Undersecretary of Agriculture.
“We are excited to be heading up such a dynamic and experienced team for this new national evaluation and technical assistance work,” said Amy Yaroch, PhD, executive director at GSCN. “We recognize the importance of developing relevant and robust measurement and evaluation as part of this effort, alongside the GusNIP grantees who will be implementing this important work. We look forward to being able to demonstrate the impact of nutrition incentive and fruit and vegetable prescription programs in the U.S.”
Nutrition incentives provide multiple benefits: they’re a win for low-income families who bring home more healthy food; a win for local businesses and economies; and when linked to local agriculture, a win for local farmers selling more produce.
“The adoption of nutrition incentive programs has been incredible,” said Kate Krauss, Fair Food Network executive director and COO. “Within a decade, efforts have grown from a handful of pilots to a permanent part of the farm bill with programs in all 50 states. We are excited to help continue this growth to benefit even more families and farmers.”
The two organizations have brought together a coalition of partners and experts to provide support including the University of Minnesota Center for Farm Financial Management, National Grocers Association, Farmers Market Coalition, Ecology Center, and Michigan Farmers Market Association, among others.
GSCN is an established leader in nutrition incentive evaluation. In 2018, GSCN led an evaluation funded by Healthy Eating Research, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, to conduct a series of interviews with USDA grantees and stakeholders in order to inform future nutrition incentive programs and identify policy implications. Findings from this study influenced the 2018 Farm Bill in multiple ways. Mandatory funding for nutrition incentives was almost doubled, totaling approximately $41 million for the 2019 fiscal year. In addition, GSCN has been the independent evaluator for Fair Food Network’s Michigan Double Up Food Bucks for the last five years.
Fair Food Network has a long track record of helping incentive programs launch, evolve, and expand. Its own Double Up Food Bucks program first piloted in Michigan is now used in 27 states at more than 870 grocery and farmers market locations. Since 2009, more than $35 million in combined SNAP and Double Up purchases have been made. The success of Double Up programs in communities nationwide informed federal support for incentives, making it a permanent component of the Farm Bill.
“There is no way I could have done this on my own” said Jimmy Wright, owner of the independent store Wright’s Market in Opelika, Alabama, which launched Double Up in 2018. “It’s been a real blessing for us to be involved with Fair Food Network.”
Fair Food Network also received $12.5 million from the USDA to substantially expand Double Up in its home state of Michigan. Double Up is currently available at more than 250 locations statewide and has generated more than $21 million in combined SNAP and Double Up sales. New federal and state funding will bring Double Up to all counties in Michigan while doubling participation and generating additional benefits for area farmers.
“Nutrition incentives continue to bring people together,” said Oran Hesterman, founder and CEO of Fair Food Network. “They bring together farmers and families, urban and rural communities, and legislators from both sides of the aisle.”
The Gretchen Swanson Center for Nutrition is a nonprofit research and evaluation organization providing scientific expertise and partnership in the key public health areas of healthy eating active living, food insecurity, policy advocacy and health equity. The Center specializes in the development and implementation of mixed-methods approaches, which are primarily focused on measuring changes that occur through policy, systems and environmental interventions. The Center works nationally by providing research and evaluation services to communities, nonprofits, academic and government institutions and policymakers. For more information about GSCN, please visit www.centerfornutrition.org or follow GSCN on Facebook |Twitter | Instagram
Fair Food Network is a national nonprofit whose mission is to grow community health and wealth through food. A decade in, our work is connecting people to the power of food to improve health, ignite local economies, and open opportunities for all — especially in our most underserved communities. Dig deeper at fairfoodnetwork.org or follow Fair Food Network @FairFoodNetwork on Facebook | Twitter | Instagram