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Pictured at a press conference are Cindy Lee of OLV Human Services, Tara Ellis of FeedMore WNY, Lisa French of Field & Fork, and Congressman Brian Higgins. (Submitted photo)
Pictured at a press conference are Cindy Lee of OLV Human Services, Tara Ellis of FeedMore WNY, Lisa French of Field & Fork, and Congressman Brian Higgins. (Submitted photo)

Higgins: $3 million in USDA funding awarded to Field & Fork Network


Wed, Feb 23rd 2022 03:30 pm

Funding improves access to fresh, local produce & improves technology associated with SNAP benefits

Congressman Brian Higgins joined Field & Fork Network and FeedMore WNY at OLV Human Services on Wednesday to announce a four-year federal grant totaling $3,077,153. Funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and awarded through the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program, the grant supports initiatives to increase the amount of fruits and vegetables available to low-income families, tribal communities, and other at-risk communities. This USDA investment directly serves members of the Western New York Community.

“Too many families live in food deserts or find the cost of fresh fruits and vegetables unaffordable on a tight budget,” Higgins said. “This federal investment ensures that families have affordable access to produce, along with the flexibility to purchase healthy food at a variety of community grocers. Beyond addressing immediate needs related to food insecurity, this initiative has lasting benefits, which will, over time, improve health and education outcomes for families in underserved communities.”

Field & Fork Network Executive Director Lisa French said, “By design, the ‘Double Up Food Bucks’ program is an innovative way to address food insecurity in our communities by making fresh produce not only more accessible, but also more affordable. SNAP shoppers can stretch their food dollars further with the ‘Double Up’ match, bringing home more healthy food for themselves and their families.

“We are grateful for the ongoing investment the USDA National Institute of Food & Agriculture has made in our program. These federal resources are critical and ensure we can implement the program in those communities that need it the most.”

This multiyear grant supports Field & Fork Network’s “Double Up Food Bucks New York State: Innovating Technologies and Expanding Geographies: program – a nutrition incentive program that matches the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits dollar for dollar.

SNAP provides thousands of nutritionally vulnerable New Yorkers with fresh, healthy foods. The “Double Up” program specifically applies to fresh fruits and vegetables. Making nutritious foods more affordable and accessible to low-income families, the program is offered at farmers markets, mobile markets, as well as small retail and grocery sites across urban, suburban and rural communities. Field & Fork Network will expand this program into grocery stores, allowing SNAP shoppers more choice in where they buy their food. Overall, they intended to expand the “Double Up” program to 45 New York counties by 2024.

One of the newest markets to accept “Double Up Food Bucks” is FeedMore WNY’s farm market. Field & Fork and FeedMore WNY have partnered to launch the “Double Up” program on FeedMore WNY’s mobile farm market trucks, which provide fresh, low-cost fruits and vegetables to community members through convenient stops across FeedMore WNY’s service area.

“FeedMore WNY is thrilled to partner with Field & Fork Network to introduce the ‘Double Up Food Bucks’ program at the FeedMore WNY farm market,” said Tara A. Ellis, president and CEO of FeedMore WNY. “Our farm market trucks provide fresh and extremely affordable produce to community members who may otherwise lack access to fruits and vegetables. Thanks to the ‘Double Up Food Bucks’ program, made possible through Field & Fork, and the efforts of Congressman Higgins, our farm market shoppers can make their SNAP benefits go farther and multiply their families’ healthy produce options.”

In addition to expanding access to fresh, healthy food, the program seeks to improve the technology associated with SNAP benefits. Originally, SNAP recipients received tokens and paper vouchers, which were redeemed by farmers and easily misplaced or lost. This program implements high-tech systems: one based on “Double Up” interoperable “Fresh Incentives” loyal card technology, and the other based on grocery store loyalty card programs and point-of-sale systems. Some locations will share information between retail locations owned by the same entity, while others will share information between retail locations, like farmers markets, owned by different entities. The information sharing loyalty card systems eliminate the need to manually input the last eight digits of each SNAP users’ EBT card, enable Field and Ford Network to track customers’ purchases in real time, and provide SNAP users with greater flexibility. Field & Fork Network intends to replicate the success of this technology in Buffalo and in communities across New York.

This grant program requires an equal dollar in non-federal match funding. The non-federal funding partners for this grant include the following foundations in Western New York: Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation; John R. Oishei Foundation; First Niagara Foundation; Western New York Foundation; and the Garman Family Fund through the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo.

The Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program allows the secretary of agriculture to provide grant funding for projects that increase the purchase of fruits and vegetables in low-income communities. The 2018 Farm Bill authorized the program through 2023, specifically allocating funds to improve access to produce for low-income consumers participating in the SNAP program.

Field & Fork Network connects communities to innovative solutions that foster a sustainable food system. To learn more, visit https://fieldandforknetwork.com/.

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