USDA Awards Nation’s Largest Grant to Expand California Healthy Eating Program to More Farmers’ Markets
August 8, 2017 | USDA
LOS ANGELES – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has awarded the California Department of Agriculture (CDFA) and its partners a $3.9 million Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) grant – the largest in the country. FINI grants are designed to increase the purchase of fruits and vegetables among low-income people participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (aka SNAP, formerly food stamps).
“We are thrilled to be selected for a federal FINI award,” said CDFA Secretary Karen Ross. “The program is a triple win for California – it supports the health of our low-income shoppers, our farmers, and the local economy.”
This grant was awarded to the California Nutrition Incentive Program (CNIP), a new CDFA program that builds on the Ecology Center’s successful eight-year-old Market Match program. Market Match offers SNAP shoppers extra buying power when they spend their SNAP benefits on California-grown fruits and vegetables at certified farmers’ markets. Besides addressing food insecurity, the program boosts revenue for independent, small and mid-sized farms. Many of those farms are among the most innovative in sustainable agriculture.
This year’s state contribution of over $3 million in non-federal matching funds – made possible through Assembly Bill 1321 (Ting) – will profoundly affect the scope of the Market Match program. Until now, some farmers’ markets located in areas of high food insecurity have been unable to use the program; they tend to be small or volunteer-run operations without the capacity to offer up non-federal matching funds.
“The state’s contribution to CNIP gives the program an incredible bump,” said Ecology Center Food and Farming Director Carle Brinkman. “Through CNIP, we will be bringing Market Match to 25 new farmers markets, and going deeper into high-need areas like Riverside County and rural areas like Siskiyou and Del Norte counties,” she explained.
The California state legislature voted last summer to allocate $5 million in state funds to establish CNIP; the bill (AB 1321, Ting) received bipartisan support and a strong endorsement from the Sacramento Bee. Now the investment is paying off, as the large influx of federal funds arrives in state. CNIP is made possible through a robust public-private funding structure—including the USDA FINI grant, state general funds, SNAP-Ed funds, and local partner support, comprised of private donations, grants, and in-kind contributions. First 5 LA, which derives from tobacco taxes, provides Market Match funding in Los Angeles County, and a recent grant from Kaiser Permanente will extend Market Match into the Central Valley and Central Coast.
“Market Match is a proven solution to providing critical food access for so many low-income families in Los Angeles,” said Natasha Moise, Program Officer at First 5 LA. “First 5 LA’s investment served as a crucial non-federal match two years ago when Market Match received its first USDA grant, so it is exciting to see that this year’s grant is being matched by dollars provided at the state level as a result of AB 1321 passing, so that families can access healthy food.”
California’s SNAP program is the largest food assistance program in the country – about 10.8% of nationwide SNAP benefits are spent in the state. CNIP will offer nutrition incentives to SNAP shoppers at 339 certified farmers’ markets and mobile market sites throughout California. For every benefit dollar spent, these shoppers will receive an additional dollar of Market Match incentive that can be spent on fruits and vegetables at the farmers’ market.
The FINI program debuted in the Farm Bill of 2014, which is slated to sunset September 30, 2018. More information on the California Nutrition Incentive Program can be found at cafarmtofork.com. For information about the efficacy of FINI grants at farmers’ markets, visit marketmatch.org/news.