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Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive Program

Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive Program

On Monday September 29, 2014, Agriculture Secretary, Tom Vilsack, announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) is allocating up to $31.5 million in funding available through the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) program, a new grant program established through the 2014 Farm Bill (Agriculture Act of 2014). This competitive grant is a joint effort between NIFA and USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) to support programs that provide fruit and vegetable incentives to participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

USDA will allocate $20 million for fiscal year 2016, $20 million for 2017, and $25 million for fiscal year 2018. Of the amount available each fiscal year, 90% of funds are expected to be made available for grants and 10% is expected to be retained by USDA for evaluation purposes.

What Types of Projects Will FINI Fund?

Applications will be accepted for three types of projects:

Type Grant Amount Duration
1) FINI Pilot Projects (FPP): aimed at new entrants looking for funding for small incentive projects in the early stages of development Awards not to exceed $100,000 Project period is not to exceed one year
2) FINI Projects (FP): aimed at mid-sized groups looking for funding for incentive projects at the local or state level. Awards not to exceed $500,000 Project period is not to exceed four (4) years
3) FINI Large Scale Projects (FLSP): aimed at large groups looking for funding for incentive projects at the multi-county, state and regional level. Awards of $500,000 or greater Project period is not to exceed four (4) years

The FINI program will only accept one application across the three project types per project team.

All FINI projects must:

  1. have the support of a state SNAP agency;
  2. increase the purchase of fruits and vegetables by low-income consumers participating in SNAP by providing incentives at the point of purchase;
  3. operate through authorized SNAP retailers, and be in compliance with all relevant SNAP regulations and operating requirements;
  4. agree to participate in the FINI comprehensive program evaluation;
  5. ensure that the same terms and conditions apply to purchases made by individuals receiving SNAP benefits as apply to purchases made by individuals who are not SNAP participants; and
  6. include effective and efficient technologies for benefit redemption systems that may be replicated in other states and communities.

NIFA will give priority to projects that:

  • Maximize the share of funds used for direct incentives to participants
  • Test innovative or promising strategies that would contribute to our understanding of how best to increase the purchase of fruits and vegetables by SNAP participants, which would inform future efforts
  • Develop innovative or improved benefit redemption systems that could be replicated or scaled
  • Use direct-to-consumer sales marketing
  • Demonstrate a track record of designing and implementing successful nutrition incentive programs that connect low-income consumers and agricultural producers
  • Provide locally- or regionally-produced fruits and vegetables, especially culturally-appropriate fruits and vegetables for the target audience
  • Are located in underserved communities, particularly Promise Zones and StrikeForce communities.

At this time, we do not know how these priorities will be applied or ranked.

Who is Eligible to Apply for FINI?

Eligibility to receive this grant is limited to government agencies and non-profit organizations. Eligible government agencies and non-profit organizations may include:

  • an emergency feeding organization;
  • an agricultural cooperative;
  • a producer network or association;
  • a community health organization;
  • a public benefit corporation;
  • an economic development corporation;
  • a farmers’ market;
  • a community-supported agriculture program;
  • a buying club;
  • a SNAP-authorized retailer; and
  • a state, local, or tribal agency.

All applicants must demonstrate in their application that they are a government agency or non-profit organization.

What is the Grant Match Requirement?

FINI grant funds can cover no more than 50% of project costs so each dollar requested from the federal government requires an equal dollar match from non-federal funds.

  • Federal funds passed through from the federal government to state agency, local government, or other entity are considered federal funds.
  • Both non-federal cash and in kind matches are eligible including facilities, equipment, or services.
  • The match funding may come from state government, local government, or private sources. Federal money cannot be used to match. Example of qualifying matching contributions may include direct costs such as: rent for office space used exclusively for the funded project; duplication or postage costs; and staff time from an entity other than the applicant for job training or nutrition education. There will be limits on for-profit entities matching funds.

What are the Evaluation Requirements?

The FINI grant program requires grantees to conduct both a project self-evaluation and participate in the USDA’s comprehensive program evaluation conducted by the independent evaluator; however, there are different requirements for each FINI project type. The evaluation requirements of the FINI grant program, include both process (developing and monitoring indicators of progress towards objectives) and outcomes as outlined below.

Project Type Project Self-Evaluation Comprehensive Program Evaluation (by Independent Contractor)
FINI Pilot Projects (FPP) Process Evaluation
  • Required to Participate
  • Participating includes providing self-assessment information to independent evaluator
FINI Projects (FP) Process Evaluation
  • Required to Participate
  • Contribute to minimum data set
  • Collaborate with independent evaluator to identify comparison sites
FINI Large Scale Projects (FLSP) Rigorous Self-Evaluation (process and outcome)
  • Required to Participate
  • Contribute to minimum data set
  • Collaborate with independent evaluator to identify comparison sites

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