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USDA Nutrition Programs Work to Reduce Hunger and Improve Healthy Food Access

Guest Author
Maddy Ring, NIFA Intern

Across the United States, there are parents and children in urban, rural and tribal areas who need improved access to healthy foods.

People living in areas without supermarkets and other food retailers often need assistance in access to healthy foods and educational efforts to improve their understanding of better nutrition. USDA’s Economic Research Service helps identify those areas in need based on census tracts with its Food Access Research Atlas.

USDA supports multiple programs that are set up to help areas in need of better nutrition and access to healthy foods. The National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s (NIFA) Community Food Projects Program works to increase food security in communities. This program intends to help better meet the needs of members of low-income communities by enhancing their access to fresher and more nutritious food supplies; increasing the self-reliance of the communities in providing for their own food needs; identifying specific food and agricultural needs for infrastructure improvement and development; and creating marketing activities that benefit agricultural producers and low-income consumers. Projects encourage long-term planning and build long-term capacity of communities to address the food and agricultural problems within these communities. These one-time grants are intended to help eligible private nonprofit entities to establish and carry out multipurpose community food projects. 

Another NIFA grant program, the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program (GusNIP), helps foster understanding to improve the health and nutrition status of participating households, facilitate growth in underrepresented communities and geographies, as well as collect and aggregate data to identify and improve best practices on a broad scale. GusNIP consists of three components.

  • Nutrition Incentive Program develops and evaluates projects to increase the purchase of fruits and vegetables by providing incentives at the point of purchase among income eligible consumers participating in the USDA Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in all 50 States, the District of Columbia, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands; and income-eligible consumers participating in the USDA Nutrition Assistance Program in Puerto Rico, American Samoa and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands.
  • Produce Prescription Program conducts projects that demonstrate and evaluate the impact of fresh fruit and vegetable prescriptions to increase procurement and consumption of fruits and vegetables, reduce individual and household food insecurity, and reduce healthcare usage and associated costs.
  • Training, Technical Assistance, Evaluation and Information Centers Cooperative Agreements offer training, technical assistance, evaluation and informational support services to potential applicants, nutrition incentive projects, produce prescription projects and GusNIP as a whole.

With support from NIFA, the Land-grant University System’s Cooperative Extension also works to improve food access across the country. Extension provides informal education and learning activities to people throughout the country to farmers and other residents of rural communities, as well as to people living in urban and suburban areas. It emphasizes taking knowledge gained through research and bringing it directly to the people to create positive changes. Contact your state Cooperative Extension office here.

Since 1969, NIFA’s Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) has successfully addressed improving nutrition and physical activity behaviors of low-income families, particularly those with young children. EFNEP is at work in all states, U.S. territories and the District of Columbia through Land-grant Universities’ Extension efforts. EFNEP reaches roughly 200,000 limited resource adults and 450,000 limited resource youth in rural and urban communities annually.

The 2014 Farm Bill created the Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI) to improve access to healthy food in rural underserved areas, to create jobs, and to revitalize low-income communities by building a food system that is more equitable. The goal is that these food systems can support the health and economy in these underserved areas. HFFI is a public-private partnership administered by Reinvestment Fund on behalf of USDA’s Rural Development. This grant program is a one-time investment into food retail or food enterprise projects, and can assist with predevelopment, facility development, equipment needs and other capital costs.

The Local Agriculture Market Program (LAMP) was program created in the 2018 Farm Bill, supporting the development and expansion of producer-to-consumer marketing, local and regional food markets, and value-added agricultural products. This Agriculture Marketing Service program has multiple funding opportunities including: Farmers Market Promotion Program, Local Food Promotion Program, Regional Food System Partnerships Program, and Value-Added Producer Grants.



Farm Bill Priority Areas
Food Safety, Nutrition, and Health
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