Vermont Business Magazine This week, the US Department of Agriculture's (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) announced a $4,628,765 grant awarded to the non-profit organization Farm Fresh RI, in partnership with NOFA-VT and other non-profits in New England states. The money will go towards expanding their work increasing access to fresh, locally grown foods across New England.
For Vermonters who receive federal food assistance in the form of SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits, this means more dollars to spend on fresh food. The grant is being used to increase NOFA-VT's existing Crop Cash nutrition incentives program to offer an impressive 100% match for SNAP users at select Vermont farmers markets: doubling the purchasing power of low-income Vermonters to buy more nutritious foods and re-investing those federal dollars into the Vermont economy by directly supporting local growers and food businesses.
As impactful as this one-to-one match is for the Green Mountain State, the grant has wide-reaching benefits across the New England region. The grant empowers Farm Fresh RI to also support the nutrition incentives programs offered by Connecticut, Maine, and New Hampshire through the creation of the New England Nutrition Incentive Collaborative (NENIC).
“This funding allows us to continue growing our Crop Cash Program, ensuring that local and organic food is accessible to all Vermonters. In addition, the funds go directly to local farmers, supporting countless businesses across the state," said Erin Buckwalter, NOFA-VT's Market Development Director.
Farmers markets play an important role in increasing the availability and accessibility of local foods. They offer more places for local farmers and producers to sell their products, and invite the local community to gather over a variety of fresh foods in their own neighborhoods. In the summertime, over 40 farmers markets across Vermont provide consumers with a reliable source for nutritious, locally-sourced options, while at the same time, helping to build strong communities, protect green space, and grow job creation in Vermont by directing food dollars to marketplaces that support local farms and food businesses.
Nutrition incentives, like NOFA-VT's Crop Cash Program and the similar programs offered by other NENIC states, enable a greater percentage of the community to take part, putting fresh, local foods within reach by making the healthy choice an easier choice for people with limited food budgets.
"We are very pleased that we were able to receive this funding, and support two key constituencies: local growers and our neighbors in need of nutrition assistance.” said Sheri Griffin, Co-Executive Director of Farm Fresh RI. “This connection is at the core of our mission. We are also very excited to support our colleagues across New England who are partners on this ambitious project."
The grant awarded to Farm Fresh RI, administered by the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) program and authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill, is the largest of 24 grants totaling $21M awarded nationwide by the USDA this week.
For many people across New England, nutrition incentives make the critical difference in being able to shop for fresh food at farmers markets. In 2017, Vermonters spent over $95,000 in SNAP dollars at 41 farmers markets across the state, and NOFA-VT distributed over $69,000 in Crop Cash nutrition incentives to families enrolled in SNAP in Vermont. With this new FINI grant, NENIC hopes to reach over 20,000 consumers at over 250 outlets across New England.
Participating Crop Cash Markets
Five Corners Farmers Market--Essex Junction (SUMMER)
Milton Farmers Market (SUMMER)
Old North End Farmers Market (SUMMER)
Richmond Farmers Market (SUMMER)
Shelburne Farmers Market (SUMMER)
UVM Medical Center Farmers Market (SUMMER) (WINTER)
Winooski Farmers Market (SUMMER)
No participating markets
1. Northwest Farmers Market (SUMMER)
1. Newport Farmers Market (SUMMER)
1. Brattleboro Area Farmers Market (SUMMER) (WINTER)
2. Greater Falls Farmers Market [Bellows Falls] (SUMMER)
3. Putney Farmers Market (SUMMER)
4. Townshend Farmers Market (SUMMER)
5. West River Farmers Market [Londonderry] (SUMMER) (WINTER)
5. South Royalton Farmers Market (SUMMER)
About NOFA Vermont: The Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont is member-based organization working to grow local farms, healthy food, and strong communities in Vermont. Our members are farmers, gardeners, educators and food lovers of all sorts – anyone who wants to help us create a future full of local food and local farms. Our programs include farmer and gardener technical assistance, farm to school support, organic certification, advocacy, an online apprentice and farm worker directory, an annual Winter Conference, and programs that work to ensure access to fresh, local food to all Vermonters, regardless of income.