Feeding Florida extends Florida nutrition incentive program, Fresh Access Bucks, four more years with USDA grant
Tallahassee, FL – On Wednesday, August 18, USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture announced a $4.9 million award to Feeding Florida, continuing the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program(SNAP) nutrition incentive program, Fresh Access Bucks (FAB). The award from the GusNIP COVID Relief and Response grants program (GusCRR) will extend by four more years the Fresh Access Bucks program’s work to help low-income communities improve the affordability and consumption of fruits and vegetables by vulnerable participants in communities in need.
“Our network is committed to using all tools available to ensure Floridians have access to healthy, nutritious food. Our Fresh Access Bucks program is an important asset to provide families on SNAP an incentive to access healthy produce,” said Robin Safley, Executive Director of Feeding Florida. “We are excited that this grant will allow us to continue the expansion of our Fresh Access Bucks into both farmer’s markets and traditional retail outlets in rural Florida.”
Fresh Access Bucks is a nutrition incentive program that matches SNAP/EBT dollars spent at farmers markets, farm stands, community supported agriculture (CSA) programs, mobile markets and community grocers across the state. For every $1 spent with SNAP/EBT, customers receive $1 in Fresh Access Bucks for Florida-grown fresh fruits and vegetables, doubling their dollar for nutritious options.
“At the High Springs Farmers Market, our community is excited about the opportunity they have using the SNAP/FAB program. This program makes it possible for the customers and their families to eat healthy and not worry about whether they have enough funds to feed their families,” says Carol Rowan, Market Manager at High Springs Farmers Market, a Fresh Access Bucks participating farmers market.
According to the Hunger in America study, 66% of households served by Feeding America reported choosing between food and medical care. When people make these hard choices, they don’t have enough food, or have to choose inexpensive foods with low nutritional value, seriously impacting their health. More than half the households the Feeding America network serves have at least one member living with high blood pressure, and more than one-third have a member with diabetes.
Aiming to make those choices easier and increase access to fresh fruits and vegetables, FAB plans to add 20 additional farm-direct locations and 13 additional grocery locations to the current 68 locations stretching across 26 counties in Florida.
"An elderly man in a food desert has improved his health, energy and lost weight (much needed for health reasons). It's the first time in twenty years he is below 275 pounds. He says thank you EVERY TIME he shops with us,” says Jeff Wright, owner of Wright’s Natural Market in New Port Richey. He can personally attest to the health impact felt by his customers who are using the Fresh Access Bucks program to double their SNAP dollars for fresh fruits and vegetables.
Increased fruit and vegetable purchases among SNAP recipients are expected to lower obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease in the U.S and would be cost saving under a wide range of scenarios. In fact, estimates show that SNAP nutrition incentives, like FAB, have the potential to save $1.21 billion in healthcare costs by providing greater access to fresh fruits and vegetables. The benefits would likely accumulate among demographic groups who have been traditionally missed by healthcare-based interventions, thus addressing social and economic determinants of nutritional and health disparities.
“When we impact food security of families and communities such as access, affordability and awareness, we help mitigate associated costly issues, which can be detrimental to health, development, and well-being. This is why Florida Blue focuses on food security as a primary driver of health,” said Velma Monteiro-Tribble, Senior Director, Community Investments at Florida Blue Foundation. “We congratulate Feeding Florida on continuing their efforts to mitigate these issues and increasing access to Florida fruit and vegetables by families so they can choose a healthier lifestyle.”
In all, Fresh Access Bucks is estimated to generate $3.4 million in fruit and vegetable purchases through nutrition incentives, with $756,000 of that coming from the newly added regional and community grocery stores and nearly $2.7 million from direct-to-consumer partners such as farmers markets, farm stands, CSAs and mobile markets. Through GusCRR grant funding, FAB will create the infrastructure for continued, resilient program expansion. Last year the program saw a 135% increase in Fresh Access Bucks redeemed for fresh fruits and vegetables and expects to see that number increase another 10% in the next two years.
The USDA grant program awarded a total of $69 million to 20 active Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program (GusNIP) and Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) grantees as directed by the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021. This statement comes on the heels of last week’s announcement that SNAP benefits will permanently increase by 25% beginning in October, signaling an investment in food access and nutrition security for Floridians.
For more information about Fresh Access Bucks, please visit the program's page.