MISSOULA, MT – The USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) announced a $69M investment this week to finance efforts aimed at supporting pandemic-impacted, low-income communities’ access to crucial food, nutrition, and healthcare. The Missoula-based Community Food and Agriculture Coalition (CFAC) is one of 35 organizations nationwide to receive this funding and will receive approx. $623K to further support the Double SNAP Dollars (DSD) program. Funding is given through the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program Covid Relief and Response (GusCRR) grant. CFAC was awarded an initial grant of $500K in similar funds this past November, bringing total funding close to $1.25M.
Since 2015, the DSD program has served over 7,200 Montanans, leading to increased fresh fruit and vegetable consumption by SNAP customers. $541K has been spent through the DSD program on local foods, boosting Montana farmers’ income. The program works by doubling individual’s SNAP benefits for fresh fruits and vegetables at farmers markets, and select grocery/retail store locations that offer locally grown produce. For every $1 spent with a SNAP benefit card on fruits and vegetables, customers are matched another $1 free in fruits and vegetables with DSD.
In the three-year federal funding proposal, the first year focuses on enhancing incentive distribution through direct-to-consumer marketing, a SNAP-eligible CSA-style food box program and increasing the allowable match amount at participating locations from $20 to $30 a day. This match increase allows participants to spend higher amount on fruits and vegetables — increasing health, supporting the local economy and providing immediate assistance to 2,000 Montana residents facing food insecurity.
CFAC will support the SNAP-eligible fresh food box program in partnership with the Local Food for Local Families Coalition and Missoula Food Bank and Community Center. The food boxes will support 200 families in Western Montana and Flathead Reservation. The Missoula Food Bank will provide home delivery to 50-100 home-bound seniors. Food box programs create long term alternatives for people with mobility and transportation obstacles.
In year two and three, the focus will be on expanding the program to more retail locations, extending operating hours and increasing access to healthy food for the long run. Twenty-eight new locations have expressed interest in participating in the DSD program. They represent a diversity of models including corner stores, grocery outlets, farm share programs, farmer’s markets, and fresh food box locations. These proposed additions to the DSD network would increase equity in its distribution of incentives to include more markets in rural and Tribl communities. These new locations will have the opportunity to introduce customers to nutrition incentives while building social capital in their communities.
“Nutrition incentives are a win-win for everyone involved.” Ian Finch, the food access programs manager at the Coalition, explained. “They’re a win for low income families who can access more nutritious food, a win for local businesses and a win for our local farmers who are able to sell more produce to more members of the local community.”
CFAC established the Double SNAP Dollars Network, a statewide coalition of 12 organizations, that helps to set the priorities and direction of the DSD program each year. The Network includes National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT), Farm Hands – Nourish the Flathead, Rocky Mountain Tribal Leaders Council, Montana Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics, Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes Tribal Health Department, Rural Dynamics, Inc., Montana Food Bank Network, MSU Extension Nutrition Education Program, Hi-Line Kitchen Processing and Garden Center, Fort Peck Community College Wellness Center, American Heart Association/American Stroke Association, Kalispell Regional Healthcare, and Open and Local.
This funding source will support the Double SNAP Dollars (DSD) program through 2024. For more information about DSD, program locations, how it works and more, please visit doubledollarsmt.com.
GusNIP is a joint program between NIFA and USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service, which oversees SNAP and is responsible for evaluating the impact of the variety of types of incentive programs being deployed by GusNIP grantees. These grantees represent a variety of peer-reviewed projects, including small pilot projects, regular projects, large-scale projects, produce prescription projects, and one training, technical assistance, evaluation, and information center project. GusNIP brings together stakeholders from different parts of the national food system to improve the nutrition and health status of SNAP households.