written By Amy Weaver
Auburn University’s Hunger Solutions Institute will be working with Alabama farmers, farmers markets and independent grocers to ensure Alabama residents have access to healthy and fresh foods.
The Hunger Solutions Institute, or HSI, in the College of Human Sciences will lead the administration of funding from the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program, or GusNIP, within the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, or NIFA.
Auburn will receive $500,000 from GusNIP, plus an additional $500,000 in matching funds to be used over the next three years to support greater food access and nutrition security for low-income and at-risk communities.
Retailers in Alabama have received GusNIP funding for years, but this marks the first time that program management will be in state. With HSI taking the lead, it will continue to work with established food locations — seven farmers markets and two independent grocers — and expand to include three additional farmers markets and four additional grocers.
“Alabama households face food insecurity at a higher rate than most states, and the Hunger Solutions Institute exists to change that,” said Alicia Powers, the institute’s managing director. “With the End Child Hunger in Alabama initiative, we strive to address hunger and food insecurity among Alabama’s children. Alabama GusNIP will help us reach even more families.
“It makes sense for HSI to lead Alabama GusNIP since we have longstanding relationships with state agencies and non-government agencies to meet the needs of the hungry in Alabama. The program supports SNAP recipients and small- to mid-size farmers, which helps the state economy. It’s really a win-win-win situation.”
Under the program, recipients of the USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, will receive a dollar-for-dollar match, up to $20 per day, to spend on locally grown or regionally produced fresh fruits or vegetables when they make a purchase using their Electronic Benefit Transfer, or EBT, card at participating retailers.
“We want to ensure all Americans have access to healthy, affordable and fresh food,” said NIFA Director Carrie Castille. “As we approach the holiday season, we should be mindful that over 13 million American families are food insecure. USDA continues to use every resource at our disposal to bolster both food and nutrition security for these vulnerable Americans.
“Programs like GusNIP play a key role in helping families purchase and eat more fresh fruits and vegetables while giving them a chance for better health outcomes, not just during the holidays, but year-round.”
NIFA’s recent investment of more than $34 million supports 39 projects and organizations that directly serve low-income and at-risk communities. This year, NIFA provided more than $122 million to projects that promote nutrition security across the nation.
To help administer GusNIP, HSI will rely on its partnerships with the Alabama departments of human resources, agriculture and industries and public health, Alabama SNAP-Ed, Sweet Grown Alabama, Alabama Grocers Association, Alabama Food Bank Association and Alabama Arise.