Produce Perks Midwest has been appropriated a total of $850,000 over FY20-21 in the Ohio State Operating Budget. With strong, bipartisan support from the Ohio Legislature, Produce Perks Midwest was able to secure $250,000 in each fiscal year to expand programming and operations of its flagship program, Produce Perks.
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. Produce Perks is operational at over 100 locations statewide and generated over $800,000 in sales in 2018. Produce Perks increases affordable access to healthy foods, supports Ohio farmers, and strengthens local economies.
State Senator Cecil Thomas (D-Cincinnati) stated, “Food insecurity is one of Ohio’s toughest challenges. The Produce Perks model is an effective tool at lifting up our most vulnerable citizens. I am pleased that we were able secure additional funding for them in the state budget. I know they will continue to do great work.”
Additionally, Produce Perks Midwest secured $175,000 in each fiscal year to expand their Produce Prescription Program to focus on pregnant women, in an effort to reduce infant mortality and morbidity. The Produce Prescription (PRx) Program connects food insecure patients suffering from chronic, diet-related disease to healthcare providers that write prescriptions for free produce. PRx programming is operational in diverse regions across Ohio.
State Senator Stephanie Kunze (R-Hilliard) stated, “As Chair of Ohio’s Commission on Infant Mortality, I am especially proud to support the work Produce Perks does by increasing affordable access to healthy food, supporting local farmers and strengthening local economies – in our most under-served communities. Produce Perks helps to address inequities in our food system. Having double the access to fresh, local healthy fruits and vegetables is so important as we know food is crucial in allowing moms and babies to be healthy during pregnancy, children to grow and all Ohioans to thrive.”
Hunger and food hardship affects Ohioans in every community. Nationally, Ohio has the 7th highest number of households receiving SNAP benefits – 1.5 million Ohioans rely on SNAP to purchase food. With only $4 a day on average to buy food, most healthy options are unavailable choices for low-income Ohioans receiving SNAP benefits. Ohio ranks 45th in the nation for household food insecurity, with some of the nation’s highest rates of obesity, diabetes, & chronic diseases related to diet & nutrition. Furthermore, Ohio spends $50 billion annually to address chronic disease while healthy food remains elusive for far too many households.
Produce Perks Midwest was also supported by many health and small business organizations who support their mission. “People with severe food insecurity have an approximately twofold risk of diabetes compared with those without food insecurity,” said Gary Dougherty, Director of State Government Affairs and Advocacy for the American Diabetes Association. “A healthy diet, starting with access to fresh and nutritious foods, can help decrease risk for obesity and chronic diseases like diabetes.”
With the mission to support local economies, Produce Perks is mindfully scaling into more farmers’ markets and local grocery stores, supporting small businesses and keeping dollars within Ohio communities. Kristin Mullins, President of the Ohio Grocers Association (OGA) stated, “OGA is so pleased and thankful to the Ohio Legislators for their recognition of the importance of supporting both the Produce Perk Program and the Produce Prescription (PRx) Program. Ohio’s grocers are committed to providing fresh, healthy products to their community customers and this program aids in that mission.”