Reps. Crawford and Kildee Introduce Legislation to Expand Low-Income Americans’ Access to Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Sara Robertson (Sara.Robertson2@mail.house.gov)

Reps. Crawford and Kildee Introduce Legislation to Expand Low-Income Americans’ Access to Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

7/25/2023

Washington – This week, Congressman Rick Crawford (AR-01) and Congressman Dan Kildee (MI-08) introduced legislation to strengthen a successful program that improves public health while increasing demand for US agriculture. The bipartisan bill would enhance and expand the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program (GusNIP), which awards competitive grant funding to nonprofit organizations and government agencies for projects that provide incentives to income-eligible consumers to increase their purchase of fruits and vegetables. 

GusNIP was first established as a pilot program in the 2014 Farm Bill and later expanded in the 2018 Farm Bill. It has, since 2019, provided over $270 million in funding to 197 projects throughout the U.S.

“Rising food costs have made it even more difficult for families to afford to make healthy choices at the grocery store,” said Rep. Crawford. “Incentivizing folks to purchase more fruits and vegetables not only improves their health but is an investment in our farmers. As we look towards the new Farm Bill, it’s clear we should seize the opportunity to build on the past success of the GusNIP program.”

“Increasing access to local fruits and vegetables supports farmers and makes our community healthier,” said Rep. Kildee. “Successful programs like Double Up Food Bucks are making a positive impact on our community. My bipartisan legislation will make it easier to expand successful programs like Double Up Food Bucks in Michigan.”

GusNIP nutrition incentives expand purchasing power for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) participants, empowering them to improve their diet and explore food as medicine, while aiding local economies and retailers. The Legislation, called the GusNIP Expansion Act of 2023, would enact the following changes to GusNIP:

  • Reduce the federal match for grants from 50% to 20%;
  • Create new USDA cooperative agreements to scale incentives programs statewide;
  • Prioritize grants for fruits and vegetables incentives projects that work in a variety of retail settings such as independent retailers and farmers markets;
  • Bolster the Produce Prescription Program (PPRx) grants by instilling a two-tiered grant structure for clinical and scalable infrastructure and research studies and instituting a separate grant proposal review panel to help choose the most effective programs that maximize fruits and vegetables as medicine; and 
  • Requires USDA to provide a 10-year roadmap for moving the PPRx program out of USDA jurisdiction and over to a more healthcare-focused agency or the private sector.

Stakeholder reaction to the introduction of the GusNIP Expansion Act of 2023:

Jeremy Adams, Project Manager, Arkansas Double Up Food Bucks: “SNAP incentive programs allow low-income households to purchase more fresh, healthy fruits and vegetables. Last season, we saw 15,000 transactions in Arkansas including many mothers with young children and seniors. For families on a tight food budget, nutrition incentives are a lifeline to healthy food. Continued support for GusNIP-funded nutrition programs is critical to scaling this program across Arkansas and increasing access to healthy foods.”

Jon David King, President, Hays Food Town, Inc: “Through the years, SNAP customers across our supermarkets have become more familiar with Double Up Food Bucks and actively seek eligible items because they know they can save money while providing healthy and nutritious fresh fruits and vegetables to their families. We urge more support for GusNIP-funded nutrition incentives so that we can continue to provide and expand the Double Up Food Bucks program to our customers.”

“These common-sense bipartisan improvements to GusNIP will reduce roadblocks so more families can access and afford fruits and vegetables,” said Kate Krauss, CEO of Fair Food Network. “The GusNIP Flexibility Act is an important step forward to ensure more households with low income can improve their nutrition security while boosting income for farmers who grow the healthy food we eat. We applaud Congressmen Kildee and Crawford for their bipartisan leadership, and we look forward to building on these provisions in the 2023 Farm Bill.”

“A meal pattern that is rich in fruits and vegetables helps decrease people’s risk of diet-related chronic diseases, yet nine out of 10 people do not meet the recommendations of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans,” said Lauri Wright, 2023-2024 President of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “Programs like GusNIP improve nutrition security for individuals and families with limited financial resources and those experiencing the greatest health disparities. The Academy thanks Congressmen Crawford and Kildee for their efforts and urges Congress to pass a Farm Bill that reaches more people through the GusNIP program.”

“We are pleased to see the bipartisan consensus improvements to GusNIP proposed today by Congressmen Crawford and Kildee. The enhancements outlined will test statewide expansion of SNAP Incentives while bolstering evidence and infrastructure for Produce Prescriptions to be offered to patients across the country in standard clinical workflows and care management. For 15 years we’ve worked with a national network of colleagues and partner agencies to seed, develop, and scale these programs that empower families to put more healthy food on their dinner tables and in their lunchboxes while simultaneously improving health and strengthening the marketplace for produce growers, distributors, and retailers. We are confident our shared nutrition incentive community will unify in support of this proposal,” said Michel Nischan, Co-Founder and Chairman of Wholesome Wave. 

“America’s independent supermarkets serve as cornerstones of their communities, offering accessible, high-quality food options every day. Nutrition initiatives, such as GusNIP, centered on education and customer incentives, have proven mutually beneficial for local grocers, producers, and the communities they proudly serve,” said Greg Ferrara, President and CEO of the National Grocers Association. “On behalf of the independent supermarket industry, I commend Congressmen Crawford and Kildee for addressing this critical matter. We look forward to continuing the collaborative efforts to strengthen nutrition incentive programs that expand access to fresh produce and empowers families to embrace healthier choices while nurturing local economies.”

“Food insecurity is a matter of national security,” said Brigadier General Gary Profit, U.S. Army (Ret.), member of Mission: Readiness. “We thank Congressmen Crawford and Kildee for their efforts to reduce childhood malnutrition by strengthening GusNIP. By doing so, we can increase fruit and vegetable consumption and improve the health of America’s youth.”

The GusNIP Flexibility Act of 2023 is also endorsed by the following groups: 

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

American Heart Association 

Bread for the World

Center for Science in the Public Interest

Council for a Strong America

Fair Food Network

Farmers Market Coalition

International Fresh Produce Association

MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger

Mission: Readiness

National Grocers Association

National Produce Prescription Collaborative 

National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition

Nourish Colorado

Save the Children

Share Our Strength

Union of Concerned Scientists 

Wholesome Wave

Further information on the GusNIP program can be found here: Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program (GusNIP): Year 3 Impact Findings.

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