Guilford County Receives USDA Grant to Expand Access to Healthy Foods
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Guilford County Receives USDA Grant to Expand Access to Healthy Foods

April 1, 2015

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has awarded the Guilford County Department of Health and Human Services nearly $100,000 to increase the amount of healthy foods purchased by those on food assistance.

The grant will be used to fund a one-year pilot program that doubles the value of purchases from the county's Mobile Oasis Farmers Market and starts a reward program for repeat visits.

In total, the USDA awarded $31.5 million to local, state and national organizations to fund programs intended to entice more participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to purchase fresh and local produce. About 23,300 Guilford County residents received SNAP benefits between 2008 and 2012.

The Mobile Oasis Farmers Market is a county-sponsored mobile market that last fall stopped at two Greensboro locations that are within food deserts. Primarily found in urban and rural environments, food deserts are areas that lack access to fresh, healthy food, typically through a standard grocery store. More than 93,000 residents live in one of Guilford County's 24 food deserts. About 29 percent of those individuals live below the poverty line.

The grant will also help expand the number of mobile market locations from two to at least six. Program Coordinator Mark Smith said that the sites will be determined through a community engagement process.

Similar to programs already used at numerous farmers markets throughout the state, Guilford County's Double Bucks program will double up to $20 SNAP purchases at the mobile market.

The county will also start customer rewards program that rewards repeat visits to the market with drawings and other incentives.

The grants were funded through the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) program.

"Encouraging low income families to put more healthy food in their grocery baskets is part of USDA's ongoing commitment to improving the diet and health of all Americans." Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said is a statement. "These creative community partnerships also benefit regional food producers and local economies along with SNAP participants."

FINI is a joint effort between USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and USDA's Food and Nutrition Service, which oversees SNAP and has responsibility for evaluating the effectiveness of the incentive projects. FINI brings together stakeholders from distinct parts of the food system and fosters understanding of how they might improve the nutrition and health status of SNAP households.