GusNIP Listening Session
NIFA hosted a listening session on October 20, 2021 to collect stakeholder feedback, through oral and written comments, regarding all aspects of the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program (GusNIP), which has been shown to support farmers, increase access to nutritious foods—particularly fresh fruits and vegetables, aid in economic recovery, and contribute to the resilience of communities. As a nascent, innovative program, stakeholder input is crucial to NIFA’s ability to effectively administer GusNIP. NIFA greatly appreciates all of our stakeholders’ time and thoughts shared on GusNIP through this listening session, among other mediums. We have been working across our agency, with the USDA Food and Nutrition Service, and departmental leadership to utilize to the maximum extent possible the feedback shared to enhance GusNIP implementation, the FY22 requests for applications, and future fiscal year requests for applications. Below summarizes the 2021 GusNIP Listening Session stakeholder oral and written feedback. Thank you for your partnership in the continual evolution of GusNIP. We look forward to continuing to work with you to foster innovative nutrition incentive programs to improve the health and nutrition status of participating individuals and households, facilitate growth in states with low participation, as well as collect and aggregate data to identify and improve best practices on a broad scale.
The Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program (GusNIP) brings together stakeholders from various parts of the food and healthcare systems. The competitive grant program portfolio includes nutrition incentive projects; produce prescription projects; and training, technical assistance, evaluation, and information centers, which provide support services to both nutrition incentive and produce prescription projects. Nutrition incentive projects aim 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 (SNAP) in all 50 States, the District of Columbia, Guam, and the United States Virgin Islands, in addition to income-eligible consumers participating in the USDA Nutrition Assistance Program (NAP) in Puerto Rico, American Samoa, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands. Produce prescription projects aim to increase procurement and consumption of fruits and vegetables, reduce individual and household food and nutrition insecurity, and reduce healthcare usage and associated costs.
About the 2021 GusNIP Listening Session
One hundred and eleven grantees, applicants, or other interested parties from 82 organizations attended the October 20, 2021 listening session. Twelve organizations gave oral comments during the meeting and four organizations (three of which provided oral comments) provided written comments. These organizations included the broad community of nutrition incentive and produce prescription practitioners, program evaluation partners, food outlet and clinic partners, past and present grantees, as well as stakeholders new to incentive programs. All feedback was transcribed and analyzed using topic modeling and natural language processing. Graphical representation as well as a summary description of stakeholder feedback and input is provided below.
Notable Themes from 2021 GusNIP Listening Session Stakeholder Comments
Stakeholders (which included GusNIP applicants and grantees, among others) spoke on common themes, including future opportunities, the clarity of the request for applications (RFA) and application resources, as well as financial requirements. The themes summary is the result of the analysts manually grouping all submitted comments (emails and the listening session) into categories.
- Expand incentive models. Stakeholders endorsed greater flexibility with allowable fruit and vegetable incentive models. Stakeholders cited long-term sustainability challenges faced by nutrition incentive projects, given the narrower incentive models allowed in the 2019-2021 GusNIP RFAs.
- Expand incentivized foods. Stakeholders suggested widening fruit and vegetable incentives beyond fruits and vegetables to support food sovereignty of Tribal Nations.
- Sustainability. Stakeholders voiced the desire for funding to be available that supports continuing operation of successful projects.
- New applicants. Stakeholders expressed the need to lower the barrier to entry for new applicants. A streamlined application for new entrants was a strategy suggested.
Clarity of the Request for Applications (RFA) and Application Resources
- Differences between Produce Prescription and Nutrition Incentive Projects. Stakeholders noted key differences between nutrition incentive projects and produce prescription projects and recommended separate RFAs to reduce confusion and improve clarity. Continuing to publish the RFA earlier in the fiscal year was also recommended.
- Repetition. Stakeholders highlighted language that is repeated throughout the RFA. Recommendations were given to refer readers to important sections of the RFA, but not to restate information. Preference for shorter RFA documents was also expressed.
- Lifting up changes. Stakeholders expressed appreciation for clearly marking changes and modifications to the previous RFA and suggested this practice be applied from year-to-year.
- Human-subjects assurance requirements. Stakeholders shared that more unambiguous language that human-subjects assurance, also known as Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval, is required for all produce prescription projects and nutrition incentive projects would be appreciated.
- GusNIP comprehensive evaluation. Similar sentiments were expressed for more explicit communication of the GusNIP comprehensive evaluation requirements for produce prescription projects and nutrition incentive projects.
- USDA and GusNIP NTAE center resources. Stakeholders articulated gratitude for the resources available to all potential applicants. They recommended emphasizing that GusNIP NTAE center support and resources are available at no charge. Resources for USDA-FNS SNAP retailer approval were recommended to be separated from the RFA to improve agility and support for small firms in historically underinvested communities.
- Legislatively directed matching requirement for nutrition incentive projects. Stakeholders conveyed the challenge potential applicants and grantees face to meet the requirement that nutrition incentive project applicants must provide a matching contribution on a dollar-for-dollar basis (7 U.S.C. 7517(b)(1)(C). Stakeholders shared that this is particularly difficult in underserved communities and when expanding or enhancing large-scale projects. The limitation that salaries paid to staff of for-profit organizations cannot be used toward match was described as further exacerbating these challenges (7 U.S.C. 7517(b)(1)(D)(ii).
- Funding allocation guidelines. Stakeholders cited the constraints of budgeting at least 50% of funds for direct participant incentives and no more than 20% of the budget toward administrative costs not included in the applicant’s indirect cost pool. They suggested greater flexibility when preparing project budgets.
The two graphical representations (attached below) were created using natural language processing and topic modeling based on word frequencies of all submitted oral and written comments via document review of written comments and the transcript of the oral comments.
Citation GusNIP Listening Session Analysis: National Institute of Food and Agriculture. GusNIP 2021 Listening Session Analysis, Kansas City, MO: US Department of Agriculture, NIFA; 2022, February