Washington, DC - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced the availability of up to $16.8 million in funding to help participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) increase their purchases of fruits and vegetables. The funding is available to local, state and national organizations to test incentive strategies to help SNAP participants better afford healthy foods.

This is the second round of awards to be made under the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) program created by the 2014 Farm Bill. USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) will administer the grants.

"Eating healthy foods makes a difference to an entire family's health and ability to learn, work and enjoy life," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "These investments are moving the dial for families in need and expanding the market for America's fruit and vegetable producers. The FINI program scales up public-private collaboration to develop innovative strategies that make healthy fruits and vegetables more accessible to families around the country, part of our strategy to improve the diet and health of all Americans."

FINI connects stakeholders from distinct parts of the food system and fosters partnerships to improve the nutrition and health status of lower-income households. These resources will allow partnerships like these to help even more families.

Funded projects will test community based strategies that contribute to our understanding of how best to increase the purchase of fruits and vegetables by SNAP participants through incentives at the point of purchase, supported by efficient benefit redemption technologies, that inform future efforts.

Applications are due December 16, 2015. NIFA will host a webinar for applicants on October 14, 2015 at 2:00 p.m., EDT at http://nifa-connect.nifa.usda.gov/finip/.

Applications are sought in three categories: (1) FINI pilot projects (awards not to exceed $100,000 in one year); (2) multi-year, community-based FINI projects (awards not to exceed $500,000 over no more than four years); and (3) multi-year, FINI large-scale projects (awards of $500,000 or more over no more than four years).

Priority is given to projects that:

  • Maximize the share of funds used for direct incentives to participants
  • Provide incentives that are most likely to directly and efficiently increase the purchase and consumption of eligible fruits and vegetables by SNAP participants
  • Test innovative or promising strategies that would contribute to our understanding of how best to increase the purchase of fruits and vegetables by SNAP participants and inform future efforts
  • Improve or develop innovative benefit redemption systems that can be replicated or scaled
  • Use direct-to-consumer marketing
  • Demonstrate a track record of designing and implementing successful nutrition incentive programs that connect low-income consumers and agricultural producers
  • Provide locally- or regionally-produced fruits and vegetables, especially culturally-appropriate fruits and vegetables for a target group of consumers
  • Are located in underserved communities, particularly Promise ZonesThis is an external link or third-party site outside of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) website. and StrikeForce communities

FINI is a joint effort between NIFA and USDA's Food and Nutrition Service, which oversees SNAP and has responsibility for evaluating the impacts of the incentive projects.

Funding for the FINI program is authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill. The Farm Bill builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past five years, while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for taxpayers. Since enactment, USDA has made significant progress to implement each provision of this critical legislation, including providing disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; strengthening risk management tools; expanding access to rural credit; funding critical research; establishing innovative public-private conservation partnerships; developing new markets for rural-made products; and investing in infrastructure, housing and community facilities to help improve quality of life in rural America. For more information, visit www.usda.gov/farmbill.

SNAP—the nation's first line of defense against hunger—helps put food on the table for millions of families experiencing hardship. The program has never been more critical to the fight against hunger. Nearly half of SNAP participants are children, and 42 percent of participants live in households in which at least one adult is working but still cannot afford to put food on the table. SNAP benefits provided critical assistance to millions who lost their jobs during the Great Recession. For many, SNAP benefits provide temporary assistance, with the average new applicant remaining on the program 12 months.

NIFA invests in and advances agricultural research, education, and extension and seeks to make transformative discoveries that solve societal challenges.