USDA Invests More than $59M Nationwide to Improve Dietary Health and Nutrition Security
AUBURN, Maine – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced an investment into two of Maine’s Nutrition Incentive Programs on November 22, 2022. The Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program’s (GusNIP) Produce Prescription and Nutrition Incentive Programs grants are designed to boost consumption of fruits and vegetables for households using SNAP/EBT. The funded programs in Maine, Farm Fresh Rewards and Harvest Bucks, do just that by providing bonus bucks to buy fresh local produce to shoppers using SNAP/EBT at checkout, which helps shoppers stretch food budgets.
“Nutrition incentive programs are a win-win-win,” stated Courtney Kennedy, Director of Nutrition for Good Shepherd Food Bank. “The programs focus on promoting food security, boosting the local agricultural economy, and supporting positive, healthy food consumption habits. Because of Maine’s two Nutrition Incentive Programs, ninety-five percent of participating shoppers reported they could access and enjoy more fruits and vegetables.”
Programs like Farm Fresh Rewards and Maine Harvest Bucks make healthy and culturally appropriate food options more affordable. These programs boost rural economies and small farm livelihoods by directing federal SNAP dollars to be spent at local farmers’ markets and participating small retailers located throughout the state. For every $1 spent in SNAP funds, $1.70 is spurred in economic growth. In 2021, $1.2 million was spent by more than 10,000 Mainers in food sales at 80+ local farms from sales at farmers’ markets, small retailers, CSAs, and farm stands.
GusNIP, a federal grant fund administered by the USDA, requires a 1:1 fund match, and sustained state funding is critical for programming to continue in Maine. In 2023, Maine’s Nutrition Incentive Programs face a funding gap of more than $600,000. “Sustained state funding is critical for continued nutrition incentive programming in the state of Maine,” Jimmy Cesario-DeBiasi, executive director for Maine Federation of Farmers’ Markets, said. “The more Maine can leverage in terms of matching funding, the more the two programs can request from the USDA to help support increased access to healthy and nutritious foods our neighbors need to thrive. Increased state funds will help more local farms feed more Mainers facing food insecurity.”
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