By: Ryan Laychak, Research Data Analyst
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the largest nutrition assistance program in the nation, helping feed more than 40 million people each month- receiving $74 billion in funding. There has been a growing call for increased access and promotion of healthy food options covered by SNAP benefits, and the United States Department of Agriculture has recently been experimented with different pilot programs to incentivize healthy eating practices. SNAP-Ed, another USDA program funded separately from SNAP, has a goal of educating SNAP recipients on how to make healthy food and lifestyle choices. To meet this goal, SNAP-Ed works with community organizations to develop social marketing campaigns, nutrition education classes, and other improvements to their policies and systems to encourage healthy lifestyle choices.
In South Carolina, FoodShare SC uses SNAP-Ed funding to buy fresh produce in bulk and sell it back to the community in individual sized portions. Through the SNAP-Ed programming, the University of South Carolina was able to expand the FoodShare SC model from the original site in Columbia, to over 14 additional partner sites throughout the state.
Another push for healthier food choices came in 2014 with the creation of the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) program. This five-year program, offers competitive grants to incentivize healthier food purchases by SNAP participants at the point-of-sale. The FINI program is jointly administered by the USDA and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and funds three types of projects: pilot projects, multi-year community based projects, and multi-year large scale projects.
One project funded through the FINI in 2018 was the Arkansas Coalition for Obesity Prevention Double Up Food Bucks (DUFB) program. This initiative will provide retailers a dollar-for-dollar market match, up to $20 a day, for fresh fruit and vegetable purchases by eligible SNAP participants. Through developing this program, the Arkansas Coalition for Obesity Prevention hopes to develop a comprehensive nutrition outreach program that can help the organization increase SNAP and DUFB participation across the state, with a goal of reaching 85% of the 75 counties in Arkansas.
SNAP-Ed and FINI-funded programs provide state and local policy makers the flexibility to develop and implement creative solutions that help provide access to healthy and nutritious food for millions of SNAP eligible Americans. To learn more about this topic, check out the Self-Sufficiency Research Clearinghouse (SSRC) and their webinar on the use and impact of federal nutrition programs at farmers markets.