The Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program (GusNIP), one of USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s five primary nutrition programs, is increasing the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables by income-eligible consumers. GusNIP funded projects make healthy foods—specifically fruits and vegetables—more affordable and accessible to consumers who participate through healthcare clinics or by leveraging USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service’s food assistance programs at grocery stores, farmers markets and other food retailers.
Named in honor of the former USDA Under Secretary of Agriculture for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services (1997-2001), GusNIP has been increasing access to healthy foods since its creation in the 2014 Farm Bill.
GusNIP funding supports Nutrition Incentive (NI) projects and Produce Prescription (PPR) projects. Nutrition Incentive projects provide support for individuals using Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Nutrition Assistance Program benefits to purchase fruits and vegetables. Produce Prescription projects provide incentives via prescriptions for fresh fruits and vegetables among people experiencing low income and with heightened risk for diet-related chronic disease.
According to the GusNIP Year 3 Impact Report, these projects are improving the health and nutrition of participating households. The most recent data shows participants from both NI and PPR projects reported higher fruit and vegetable intake than the average U.S. adult (NI: 2.78 cups/day, PPR: 2.58 cups/day, average U.S. adult: 2.53 cups/day) after participating in GusNIP. Furthermore, longer participation in an NI project and enrollment in a PPR project were both associated with higher fruit and vegetable intake.
On average, redemption sites were located in communities where approximately 14% of the population earned an income below the federal poverty level (compared to 11% nationally). As a result of GusNIP, more fruits and vegetables are being purchased and consumed by U.S. individuals and families with identified need.
What Participants Say About GusNIP Projects
Enrollment positively influenced participant health.
“I want my grandchildren to grow up and already know about this healthy eating and living so they don’t have to go through the struggles I’m going through.” PPR project participant
Participants are able to afford more fruits and vegetables.
“Sometimes when I shop at the supermarket, I pick up something and put it back because it’s too expensive. At the [NI project food retail outlet] you can feel free to spend what you have. At other supermarkets you don’t know how to stretch the dollar. You have to put back things you could really use and sacrifice things for your body.” NI project participant
Produce prescriptions positively influenced participant health.
“[The doctor] had been talking to me about losing weight and was recommending more vegetables and fruit. When she first started talking to me about that, I wanted to pass out because I couldn’t really afford vegetables. It was easier to buy rice. Since eating more fruits and vegetables, I have lost weight and my appetite towards vegetables has changed. I used to eat a lot of sweets, and I’ve learned how to swap out cookies and cakes for apples and oranges. It’s much healthier. It helps to have these around the house; otherwise, I would default to cookies and cakes.” PPR project participant
Participants recognize potential for positive health impacts.
“You will be able to buy things that are good for your body, which before you were kind of ignoring because you didn’t have the money. Now, we will start eating healthier and maybe live longer.” NI project participant
Participants are excited about eating healthier.
“I love your boxes. They are great. Every time I pick one up, I go home and take a picture of what I’ve gotten and share it with everyone I know, saying ‘Look at what I got this week!’” NI project participant