Nutrition incentives support the purchase of fruits and vegetables by low-income consumers often in the form of matching dollars, vouchers, coupons, or discounts called incentives. Nutrition incentive programs across the U.S. most often serve individuals and families participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). SNAP incentive programs are often offered at farmers’ markets, mobile markets, community-supported agriculture (CSA) programs, and sometimes supermarkets and corner stores.
Types of Nutrition Incentives
SNAP Incentive Programs
Nutrition incentive programs across the U.S. most often serve individuals and families participating in SNAP (Center for Agriculture & Food Systems-2 n.d.). SNAP incentive programs provide individuals and families with matching dollars or discounts when they shop with their Electronic Benefit (EBT) Card at participating locations, most commonly farmers’ markets. SNAP incentive programs are often administered at farmers’ markets in partnership with other local community agencies. To learn more about SNAP incentive programs see Ohioline fact sheet “CDFS-4108-Introduction to Nutrition Incentives.”
Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program
The Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) was created by Congress in 1992 (USDA Food and Nutrition Service-1 n.d.). The stated goal of the WIC FMNP is to provide fresh, unprepared, locally grown fruits and vegetables to WIC participants, and to expand the awareness, use of, and sales at farmers' markets. This program serves low-income women who are pregnant and/or breastfeeding, non-breastfeeding postpartum women, infants, and children up to the age of 5 (USDA Food and Nutrition Service-3 n.d.). Through this program, local WIC offices distribute coupons to eligible individuals to spend on fruits and vegetables at farmers’ markets and farm stands. Farmers’ markets do not need to seek funding for WIC FMNP because Congress provides federal funds through the Farm Bill to support all food costs associated with the program. To participate in WIC FMNP-based programming, markets should contact their local WIC office.
Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP)
SFMNP was created in 2001 by the USDA to improve low-income seniors' diets. The program states that it is designed to provide low-income seniors with access to locally grown fruits, vegetables, honey, and herbs (USDA Food and Nutrition Service-2 n.d.). It is also focused on increasing the consumption of agricultural commodities through farmers' markets, farm stands, and community-supported agricultural programs. The Senior FMNP program provides coupons to low-income seniors, defined as individuals who are at least 60-years-old and fall within 185% of the federal poverty line. Senior FMNP is often distributed through local aging agencies or another senior social service entity. Like WIC FMNP, farmers’ markets do not need to seek funding for Senior FMNP because the program is also supported by Congress through the Farm Bill. To participate in Senior FMNP-based programming, farmers’ markets should contact the Ohio Department of Aging (National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition 2019).
Fruit and Vegetable Prescriptions (Rx)
Fruit and vegetable prescription programs vary across the U.S., but they generally promote affordable access to fruits and vegetables in underserved communities through partnerships with healthcare providers, community organizations, and direct-to-consumer outlets or retailers (USDA Economic Research Service n.d.). In addition to providing economic incentives, fruit and vegetable prescription programs also provide nutrition education during healthcare visits to encourage participants to make healthier dietary choices.
How Incentives Are Commonly Funded
Nutrition incentive programs are generally funded through sponsorships, local philanthropic grants, or federal grant programs. A farmers’ market's ability to secure funding for a nutrition incentive program may depend on the individual market’s capacity or supportive partnerships with local non-profits or community organizations. The source of the incentive funds will dictate the use, management, accounting, and reporting needs of those funds. If a farmers’ market acquires funding for incentives, they must record the amount of funds dispersed to SNAP and ensure that the incentives are only used to purchase eligible foods. Funds received for incentive programs come with expectations that they will be properly managed. The funders also expect reporting about the success of the program.
Federal Grant Programs
Federal funding is available to support nutrition incentive programs through the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Institute for Food and Agriculture. Specifically, the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program (GusNIP) supports the development and evaluation of projects to increase the purchase of fruits and vegetables by low-income consumers participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by providing incentives at the point of purchase (USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture n.d.). The GusNIP grant program also provides funding for fruit and vegetable prescription programs. Writing, securing, and managing a federal grant requires significant management, reporting, and record keeping. Many U.S. farmers’ markets participating in a GusNIP-funded nutrition incentive program partner with their local health departments, community development corporations, extension services, or other related entities. Ohio currently has a SNAP incentive program known as Produce Perks that is funded through GusNIP. Ohio farmers’ markets can apply to join Produce Perks in lieu of submitting a USDA GusNIP proposal. For more information, visit produceperks.org.
Sponsorships can be secured through local businesses or financial institutions such as local banks. Farmers’ markets or partnering organizations can provide sponsors with opportunities to present their services at the market in exchange for financial support. A sponsor’s logo is often included on the farmers’ market’s advertisements, printed materials, websites, and social media accounts. A sponsor may also ask to occasionally have a presence at the market to promote their services and hand out free items such as branded, reusable shopping bags.
Local Philanthropic Grants
Local foundations often invest in communities by providing grants to community organizations or non-profits to support various projects or initiatives. Many nutrition incentive programs across the country have been piloted and supported with funding from local foundations. Writing, securing, and managing grants requires professional oversight that farmers’ markets may or may not have. To secure and service philanthropic funds, farmers’ markets should consider partnerships with their local health departments, community development corporations, extension services, and other related entities.
|Incentive Program||Source of Funding||Purpose|
|SNAP incentive programs (i.e., Produce Perks)||Federal, state, local entities||Match SNAP dollars spent at participating locations.|
|WIC FMNP||Federal, state, local entities||Provide WIC recipients with fruit and vegetable coupons to spend at participating farmers’ markets and farms stands.|
|Senior FMNP||Federal, state, local entities||Provide seniors with fruit and vegetable coupons to spend at participating farmers’ markets and farm stands.|
|Fruit and Vegetable Rx||Local and federal entities||Increase the purchase of fresh fruits and vegetables by persons with diet-related, chronic health conditions.|
If markets secure incentive funds from a local organization or sponsor, they can work with that organization to determine food items the incentives can purchase. It is beneficial to have a signed agreement that clearly communicates the program goals and requirements (Center for Agriculture & Food Systems-1 n.d.). An example agreement between a farmer’s market and a local organization or sponsor is available in the Center for Agriculture and Food Systems’ Farmers Market Legal Tool Kit.
Center for Agriculture & Food Systems-1. n.d. “Farmers Market Legal Toolkit.” Accessed December 1, 2021. farmersmarketlegaltoolkit.org.
Center for Agriculture & Food Systems-2. n.d. “Farmers Market SNAP Incentive Programs.” Incentives & Matching Programs. Accessed December 1, 2021. farmersmarketlegaltoolkit.org/snap/legal-topics/incentives.
National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. 2019. “Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program.” Publications. Last updated in July 2019. sustainableagriculture.net/publications/grassrootsguide/local-food-systems-rural-development/farmers-market-nutrition-program/#:%7E:text=SFMNP%20was%20established%20in%202001,low%2Dincome%20seniors’%20diets.
USDA Economic Research Service. n.d. “Local and Regional Foods.” Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018: Highlights and Implications. Accessed December 1, 2021. ers.usda.gov/agriculture-improvement-act-of-2018-highlights-and-implications/local-and-regional-foods.
USDA Food and Nutrition Service-1. n.d. “Farmers Market Nutrition Program.” Programs. Accessed December 1, 2021. fns.usda.gov/fmnp/wic-farmers-market-nutrition-program#:~:text=The%20FMNP%20was%20established%20by,and%20sales%20at%20farmers'%20markets.
USDA Food and Nutrition Service-2. n.d. “Seniors Farmers’ Market Program.” Programs. Accessed December 1, 2021. fns.usda.gov/sfmnp/senior-farmers-market-nutrition-program.
USDA Food and Nutrition Service-3. n.d. “Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).” Programs. Accessed December 1, 2021. fns.usda.gov/wic.
USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. n.d. “Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program.” Hunger and Food Security Programs. Accessed December 1, 2021. nifa.usda.gov/program/gus-schumacher-nutrition-incentive-grant-program.