Leahy: VT Nets $93,000 To Help SNAP Participants Buy VT Produce

(THURSDAY, April 2, 2015) – Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) Wednesday announced a $93,000 grant to help participants of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) buy more local produce in Vermont.  The grant is part of $31.5 million in Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) grants announced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).  The SNAP program in Vermont is called 3SquaresVT.  This comes just days after Leahy announced a $9 million grant from the USDA Food & Nutrition Service last week to the Agency of Human Services to help aid SNAP recipients — including the homeless, ex-offenders and people struggling with addiction — to find employment training and support services.

Leahy said:  “SNAP is a helping hand to many families trying to stretch their food budget so that they can put three meals on the table every day.  But a helping hand is more than just putting food on a plate, it is offering healthy options to help form healthy lifestyles.  Pairing this program with incentives to use local Vermont fruits and vegetables makes sense, and it’s a winning scenario for everyone.  I am proud that Green Mountain Farm-to-School has been selected to continue its extraordinary work of connecting our children, farms and communities throughout the state.”

Vermont’s congressional delegation, Leahy, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Representative Peter Welch (D-Vt.), wrote a letter in support of the program to USDA Secretary Thomas Vilsack in December.

The grant is being awarded to Green Mountain Farm-to-School Inc. of Newport as part of a pilot program.  The program aims to increase the purchase of fruits and vegetables by SNAP participants by providing incentives at retail stores, including a coupon-incentive program, consumer marketing campaign, and by providing technical assistance to retailers on sourcing local Vermont produce.  

"This funding will provide coupons for 400 SNAP consumers and their families in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables at local retail grocery stores," said Katherine Sims, Executive Director of Green Mountain Farm-to-School. "This project will not only improve access to healthy food for residents but also it will open up new markets for our local food producers." 

Leahy, the most senior member of the Senate Agriculture Committee and of the Senate Appropriations Committee, as well as a conferee on the 2014 Farm Bill, helped to include the FINI program in the 2014 Farm Bill.  FINI is a joint effort between the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture and USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service to bring together stakeholders to generate information and strategies for improving the nutrition and health of SNAP households.  The USDA is funding projects in 26 states.       

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