AUGUST 6th, 2018, Cincinnati, OH

Harvesting Health in the Heartland:

This Investment Will Expand the Produce Perks Program, Helping Millions of Ohioans receiving SNAP Benefits Access Healthy Foods while Supporting Local Farmers

On Aug. 2, 2018, the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) announced an award of $2,276,890 to Produce Perks Midwest to expand the Produce Perks program, increasing affordable access to healthy, local produce for the 1.4 million Ohioans receiving SNAP.  The award, along with matching funds contributed by Produce Perks Midwest and partners from across the state represent a $4.6 million commitment to food insecure families, Ohio farmers, and local economies.

Produce Perks is Ohio’s nutrition incentive program, empowering SNAP recipients to purchase fresh, healthy fruits and vegetables from Ohio farmers markets and grocery-retailers across the state.  The program provides a $1-for-$1 match for shoppers using SNAP/EBT to buy healthy produce.  The program operates at over 100 locations statewide and generated over $300,000 in sales in 2017.  Find a participating location hereProduce Perks increases affordable access to healthy foods, supports Ohio farmers, and strengthens local economies.

“We are grateful for the opportunity to help struggling families and farmers across Ohio,” said Tevis Foreman, Executive Director of Produce Perks Midwest. “Healthy, nutritious food is a basic necessity for us all – yet millions of people in communities throughout Ohio experience the hardship of not having access to affordable fruits and vegetables.  We at Produce Perks Midwest are indebted to our local farmers, farmers markets, grocery-retailers, and countless partners working hard everyday to provide this basic need.”

Hunger and food hardship affects Ohioans in every community.  “Nationally, Ohio has the seventh highest number of households receiving SNAP benefits,” said Darcy Freedman, PhD, Associate Professor at Case Western University School of Medicine. “This grant provides an exceptional opportunity to link these families with a proven intervention in the form of monetary incentives to purchase fruits and vegetables. This reduces some of the financial constraints for purchasing fresh and healthy foods while also creating a ripple effect stimulating economic opportunities for our local farmers and food retailers serving low-income residents.”

The USDA announced 24 grants totaling $21 million, funded though Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) program, authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill. “We are encouraging low-income families to choose affordable and healthy food options to feed their families,”said Acting NIFA Director Tom Shanower.  “At the same time, the program helps growers take advantage of direct marketing and other opportunities to bolster their sales thereby improving their bottom line.”

U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), instrumental in securing FINI funding in the 2014 Farm Bill, said “This investment will help Produce Perks Midwest expand their reach, so that they can continue helping Ohio families access fresh fruits and vegetables and support Ohio farmers.”

Headquartered in Cincinnati, OH, Produce Perks Midwest is a nonprofit pioneering solutions to address inequities within our food system – working to support families, farmers, and strengthen local economies.

Statewide partners committed to ensuring equitable and affordable access to healthy food for all Ohioans join Produce Perks Midwest in expanding the program to reach more Ohioans.  This committed network of multi-sector partners includes Countryside Conservancy, Farmers Market Association of Toledo, Ohio Department of Health, Ohio Department of Aging, Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services, Ohio Farmers Market Network, Ohio Grocers Association, Ohio State University Extension, Cuyahoga Co., Prevention Research Center for Healthy Neighborhoods – Case Western Reserve University, Summit Food Coalition, and Wholesome Wave.

About FINI and NIFA

FINI is a joint program between NIFA and USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service, which oversees SNAP and is responsible for evaluating the impact of the variety of incentive programs that are deployed by FINI grantees.  The program brings together stakeholders from different parts of the national food system to improve the nutrition and health status of SNAP households.