Florida for Fresh Access, a coalition working to expand the SNAP nutrition incentive program, Fresh Access Bucks (FAB), to rural areas and neighborhood grocery stores seeks $1 million in funding from the Florida legislature.
The coalition, in partnership with the American Heart Association (AHA), brings together key leaders in the state’s work to connect health and hunger- Feeding Florida, Florida Impact, Florida Policy Institute, Hebni, and Urban Health Partnerships. Their goal is to learn from the success of Fresh Access Bucks and expand into the retail space, specifically adding rural retailers and small community groceries to offer the nutrition incentive program to customers with SNAP.
Fresh Access Bucks is a USDA-funded, statewide nutrition incentive program that increases the purchasing power of SNAP recipients to buy fresh fruits and vegetables. FAB, currently available at 55 farm-direct outlets (farmers markets, farm stands, CSAs, and mobile markets) and 6 community grocery stores, allows recipients to double their SNAP dollars when used to purchase produce. For every $1 spent with SNAP/EBT, customers receive an additional $1 in Fresh Access Bucks.
“SNAP incentive programs like FAB help Florida families stretch their dollars and buy healthier options. Children are taught healthy behaviors, establishing lifelong habits that support their overall health and wellness,” said Tiffany McCaskill, America Heart Association’s Florida Government Relations Director. “But the benefits don’t stop with health; every $5 spent using SNAP generates as much as $9 in economic activity for local Florida businesses.”
The request for additional funding comes at a time when access to food sources is more expensive than before. According to Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap, 2.2 million Floridians, including 1 in 6 children, are food insecure. While support services provide resources to purchase food, some Floridians live too far away from chain groceries to access affordable options or don’t have participating FAB outlets nearby. A nutrition incentive program in the local community grocer increases access to healthy food options- a key in combating hunger and improving health, while also supporting local small businesses.
“Since launching in 2013, the Fresh Access Bucks program has proven that nutrition incentives allow shoppers to make healthier food choices,” said Robin Safley, Executive Director of Feeding Florida. “Rural communities and food deserts need more affordable food options now more than ever. We look forward to expanding our FAB access to these areas and helping more of Florida’s food insecure families while also supporting local businesses and Florida agriculture.”
Fresh Access Bucks reports that in just one year over 520,000 daily recommended servings of fruit and vegetable were purchased with FAB at retail partners and farm direct outlets. In addition, when FAB was able to partner with a rural grocery chain for a six-month retail pilot program, the grocer showed an increase of 25 percent in produce sales and a 10 percent growth in overall store sales.
"I am grateful for this partnership, which will help expand FAB to those neighborhoods where residents have few to no convenient options for securing affordable and healthy foods,” said Kim Johnson, President and CEO of Florida Impact. “These neighborhood stores are anchors for healthy food access in their communities. Expanding FAB to small neighborhood stores means more food-insecure families will get more nutritious food from Florida farmers.”
Visit Fresh Access Bucks for more information at www.freshaccessbucks.com.