Members of Congress write letter in effort to increase healthy food access during pandemic

FLINT, Mich. – Members of Michigan’s congress have sent a letter in hopes of additional emergency funding in the next coronavirus aid bill for the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program (GusNIP).

GusNIP provides funding, through non-profits, to Americans on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) food assistance to purchase fruits and vegetables at participating grocery stores and farmers’ markets.

“Double Up Food Bucks has been a unifier from the start, bringing together farmers and families, communities, and legislators from both sides of the aisle. During these challenging times, the need for Double Up is greater than ever. We are deeply appreciative of the partners that make the program possible, including Congressman Dan Kildee who has been a longtime champion of SNAP incentives” said Oran Hesterman, founder and CEO of Fair Food Network.

You can read the full letter below:

Dear Speaker Pelosi and Minority Leader McCarthy:

The 2018 Farm Bill expanded the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) program, known now as the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program (GusNIP), because of significant bipartisan support for the program’s benefits to specialty crop farmers, food insecure families and the communities in which they reside. GusNIPincreases the purchasing power of SNAP recipients when they buy healthy fruits and vegetables at participating grocery stores and farmers markets by leveraging financial incentives like discounts, coupons and loyalty rewards. We write in support of providing the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) with $51 million in emergency COVID-19 relief funding to both decrease the required non-federal match funding and to meet surging program demand.

GusNIP is a competitive USDA grant that requires grantees to secure half their funding through state budget appropriations and philanthropic sources. Both have shrunk due to the pandemic, at a time of exponential need.

Fruit and vegetable producers across the country are facing significant financial stress as the pandemic disrupts normal channels of business, especially sales to institutional and food service buyers. Total economic losses of $1.3 billion are forecast in local and regional markets, during March through May 2020 alone.

Specific estimates are unavailable for how many of the newly unemployed are food insecure, however, there are staggering statistics that help illustrate the growing need across the country. As of May 28, and over the past ten weeks, over 40 million jobless claims have been filed with the U.S. Department of Labor, and 36 states have been approved by USDA to operate Pandemic-EBT. The latter reflects the needs of school children, whereas across the country, prior to schools closing, approximately 21 million received free and reduced-price school meals daily.

GusNIP stretches families’ food budgets, incentivizes healthier options and stimulates the economy. Without an emergency increase, GusNIP grantees will be faced with exhausted funding exactly at the time they are most needed in the recovery phase of the pandemic. We urge Congress to expand USDA’s match at this critically important time by providing $51 million in emergency funding into this effective nutrition incentive program.


Representatives Daniel T. Kildee (MI-05), Rick Crawford (AR-01), Alma S. Adams (NC-12), Ralph Abraham (LA-05), Brendan F Boyle (PA-02), Don Bacon (NE-02), Anthony Brindisi (NY-22), Jim R. Baird (IN-04), Julia Brownley (CA-26), Rodney Davis (IL-13), Cheri Bustos (IL-17), Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01), G.K. Butterfield (NC-01), Salud Carbajal (CA-24), Ed Case (HI-01), David N. Cicilline (RI-01), J.Luis Correa (CA-46), TJ Cox (CA-21), Jason Crow (CO-06), Suzan DelBene (WA-01), Antonio Delgado (NY-19), Jeff Fortenberry (NE-01), French Hill (AR-02), Dusty Johnson (R-SD), John Katko (NY-24), Mike Kelly (PA-16), Peter T. King (NY-02), Roger Marshall (KS-01), David B. McKinley (WV-01), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05), Val Demings (FL-10), Carol Miller (WV-03), Debbie Dingell (MI-12), Dan Newhouse (WA-04), Austin Scott (GA-08), Dwight Evans (PA-03), Bill Foster (IL-11), Mike Simpson (ID-02), Marcia Fudge (OH-11), Elise Stefanik (NY-21), Jared Golden (ME-02), Steve Stivers (OH-15), Josh Harder (CA-10), Glenn Thompson (PA-15), Denny Heck (WA-10), Fred Upton (MI-06), Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18), Brad Wenstrup (OH-02), Doris Matsui (CA-06), Joseph P, Kennedy, III (MA-04), James P. McGovern (MA-02), Ro Khanna (CA-17), Jimmy Panetta (CA-20), Derek Kilmer (WA-06), Chris Pappas (NH-01), Ann McLane Kuster (NH-02), Donald M. Payne Jr. (NJ-10), Conor Lamb (PA-17), Ed Perlmutter (CO-O7), Jim Langevin (RI-02), Chellie Pingree (ME-01), Andy Levin (MI-09), Mark Pocan (WI-02), Alan Lowenthal (CA-47), David Price (NC-04), Sean Maloney (NY-18), Jamie Raskin (MD-08), Bennie Thompson (MS-02), Tim Ryan (OH-13), Nydia M. Velazquez (NY-07), Linda Sanchez (CA-38), Peter Welch (VT), Mary Gay Scanlon (PA-05), Terri Sewell (AL-07), Kim Schrier (WA-08), Darren Soto (FL-09), David Scott (GA-13), Tom Suozzi (NY-03), Joyce Beatty (OH-03).


Originally published here.