MANHATTAN, Kan. — Londa Nwadike thinks it’s always a good idea to double up on fruits and vegetables.
So Nwadike, an extension associate professor in food safety at Kansas State University and the University of Missouri, is pretty excited about a grant from USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture that will encourage healthy eating while benefiting farmers markets and grocery stores in Kansas and parts of Missouri.
In early November, NIFA awarded a grant for just over $4 million to the Mid-America Regional Council through the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program. The money will allow MARC to continue a program known as Double Up Food Bucks, which provides a dollar-for-dollar match to low-income consumers who purchase fruits and vegetables at participating farmers markets or grocery stores.
Consumers qualify for the match if they are enrolled in the federally-funded Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known widely as SNAP.
“This program is a huge benefit to SNAP recipients to be able to afford to buy more fruits and vegetables,” said Sandy Procter, a nutrition specialist with K-State Research and Extension who works with Nwadike on the project. “It’s also a great benefit to local farmers market vendors who are able to sell more fruits and vegetables.”
Procter said K-State Research and Extension will receive a sub-award from MARC for $815,348 over four years to support the program through most of Kansas. Cultivate KC also will receive funds to manage the program in the Kansas City region.
MARC reports that although Kansas and Missouri are in the heart of America’s breadbasket, nearly 928,000 people in these states rely on federal food assistance. Between 2016-2018, nearly 14% of Kansas residents were regularly without reliable access to affordable, nutritious food. Job losses and business closings linked to the global pandemic has likely increased that percentage.
Since 2016, MARC has implemented a SNAP incentive program at 183 farmers markets and grocery stores, and provided nearly $2.5 million in incentives for 86 communities Kansas and Missouri.
K-State Research and Extension first implemented the program in 2020 with financial support from the Kansas Health Foundation, though the program has been available through other groups before that. The program focused on 62 farmers markets and grocery stores in 23 counties this past year.
“With this new funding, we can expand the program to additional markets,” said Erin Bishop, coordinator of K-State Research and Extension’s Double Up Food Bucks program. The additional funding from NIFA and local and regional funders will help to support the program through 2024, she added.
Donna Martin, a public health planner with MARC and manager of the Double Up Heartland program, said the grant from NIFA requires matching funds from non-federal sources, so the total amount of the award is $8.1 million.
“The matching funds will come from a variety of public and private funders,” she said. Those include the Kansas Health Foundation, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas, the Health Forward Foundation, BlueKC, the Hall Family Foundation, the Marion and Henry Bloch Foundation, the Sosland Foundation and the William T. Kemper Foundation.
Nwadike encouraged farmers markets across Kansas to join in offering Double Up Food Bucks to SNAP recipients. In February, K-State Research and Extension is planning to provide training to farmers market managers who are interested in participating in the Double Up Food Bucks program.
More information on the program in Kansas is available by contacting Bishop at firstname.lastname@example.org.
— Pat Melgares, K-State Research and Extension