Hirono, colleagues introduce legislation to strengthen program connecting SNAP recipients to fresh, local produce
U.S. Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI) has led eight of her Senate colleagues in introducing a bill to strengthen a program connecting participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) with fresh produce.
The GusNIP Improvement Act of 2023 updates the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program (GusNIP) to help existing grantees expand participation and spending, while also giving new grantees the opportunity to establish and grow their programs.
In Hawai‘i, GusNIP is the primary funding source for “DA BUX,” a local program that enables SNAP-EBT cardholders to receive a 50% discount on Hawai‘i-grown produce at participating grocery stores and food hubs. In March 2022, there were over 173,000 people receiving SNAP benefits in Hawai‘i.
GusNIP brings together stakeholders from the food and healthcare systems to improve the health and nutrition of participating households, as well as expand programs and facilitate growth in underrepresented communities. There are three competitive grant programs: the Nutrition Incentive Program; the Produce Prescription Program; and the National Training, Technical Assistance, Evaluation, and Information Center Program. Since it was established in 2019, GusNIP has provided over $270 million in funding to nearly 200 projects throughout the U.S.
Specifically, the GusNIP Improvement Act would:
- Increase overall funding under the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program to $150 million per year, including:
- $15 million for the Produce Prescription program;
- $75 million for grants under a new “scaling tier”;
- $40 million (remaining funds) for standard GusNIP grants; and
- An increase of $1 million per year in funding for Technical Assistance from the current $7 million per year to $8 million per year total;
- Increase the federal share of the program from 50% to 90%, reducing burdensome match requirements that have hindered growth for many grantees;
- Allow the Secretary of Agriculture to waive matching requirements for small GusNIP projects under $100,000;
- Create a new grant tier aimed at scaling existing programs—this new tier of funding reduces competition and opens up the existing grant programs to those states, regions, and Tribes who are still working to establish and grow smaller programs; and
- Create a new grant tier aimed at scaling well-established Produce Prescription programs—under the legislation, Produce Prescription would have two buckets of funds, similar to GusNIP: one to seed new programs and one to scale existing programs.
In addition to Senator Hirono, the bill is cosponsored by Senators John Fetterman (D-PA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Peter Welch (D-VT), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Alex Padilla (D-CA), and John Hickenlooper (D-CO).