RI Food Policy Council Media Release: Rhode Island Receives $437,000 through USDA’s Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive Grant Program

Rhode Island Food Policy Council

Rhode Island Food Policy Council

Rhode Island Receives $437,000 through USDA’s Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive Grant Program

The Rhode Island Food Policy Council (RIFPC) is pleased to announce that federal Farm Bill funds have been secured for Rhode Island through a multi-pronged collaboration to support increased access to fruits and vegetables for the food insecure of Rhode Island, while also benefitting small and mid-sized farmers in the region. Last week, Rhode Island celebrated USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack’s announcement of $31.5 million granted through the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive Program (FINI). Rhode Island received two grants through this funding stream, an impressive accomplishment for the smallest state in the nation.

The Rhode Island Public Health Institute received $100,000 to extend the reach of its “Rhody Food on the Move” initiative. Farm Fresh Rhode Island received $337,000 (over three years) to double the amount of nutrition incentives distributed at farmers markets across the state. Farm Fresh is a subgrantee of the national nonprofit Wholesome Wave, who received a $3.77 million FINI grant. Funds from this grant, in both projects, incentivize the spending of SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as “food stamps”) on fresh fruit and vegetables.

“These grant awards are the result of a truly collaborative effort that brought together leaders in public health, food systems, and government. The FINI grants provide a double benefit for Rhode Island: the most food insecure residents in the State have increased purchasing power to buy fresh fruits and vegetables, and local and regional producers, processors, and distributors directly benefit from the increased sales,” says Kenneth Payne, Chair of the RI Food Policy Council.

Since 2004, Farm Fresh Rhode Island has been committed to building a local food system that values the health, environment, and quality of life for Rhode Island farmers and eaters. They have offered nutrition incentives named “Bonus Bucks” to SNAP recipients at farmers markets since 2009. SNAP redemption at farmers markets has subsequently grown from $500 in 2007 to over $80,000 in 2014. The grant issued to Farm Fresh will enable further expansion of Bonus Bucks incentives for SNAP shoppers through partnership with independently-managed markets across Rhode Island. Markets that offer Bonus Bucks will expand in number from 13 in 2014 to 25 in 2015.

“Bonus Bucks are a win-win for Rhode Island,” says Sheri Griffin, Co-Executive Director of Farm Fresh Rhode Island. “They ensure that federal food benefit dollars support our state’s agricultural economy, while enabling our neighbors affected by poverty and food insecurity to share in the local bounty.”

Farm Fresh received this award as a subgrantee on a larger $3.77 million grant, which nonprofit, Wholesome Wave, obtained from the USDA to support their national network of nutrition incentive partners. Farm Fresh is one of 32 community-based organizations that will join Wholesome Wave in this Large-Scale FINI Project.

The Rhode Island Public Health Institute (RIPHI), a 501c3 non-profit housed at Brown University’s School of Public Health, will use its FINI grant to expand their ‘Rhody Food on the Move’ mobile markets and introduce financial incentives into their project. ‘Rhody Food on the Move’ builds upon the experience and success of the ‘Fresh To You’ (FTY) mobile market program, which was the focus of three, recent Brown University research studies conducted by Kim Gans, PhD, MPH, LDN and Gemma Gorham, MPH. The long-term goal of the grant is to increase SNAP recipients’ purchase and consumption of fruits and vegetables by ‘making the healthy choice easy and affordable’.

“One of the big challenges with helping people to improve their diets is the lack of access to fresh produce in their neighborhoods,’’ said Dr. Amy Nunn, Executive Director of the Rhode Island Public Health Institute. “And even when it is accessible geographically, the costs can be price prohibitive.”

One of the Rhode Island Food Policy Council’s four central goals is that every Rhode Island resident will have access to safe, fresh, affordable, nutritious and culturally appropriate food, regardless of income or race. The Bonus Bucks expansion and Rhody Food on the Move projects are two prime examples of statewide efforts to pursue this vision.

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