As the old adage goes, “everyone does better when everyone does better.” One of the ways that we can do better here in Texas is by ensuring that all of our neighbors can access and afford nourishing food. Here at SFC, we think that “everyone” also includes farmers.
SNAP incentive programs increase the purchasing power of SNAP recipients when they spend their SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) benefits on Texas-grown produce. SNAP incentive programs offer a one to one match for every SNAP dollar spent at a participating market. This is a win/win/win: Low-income families eat more healthy food, area farmers gain new customers and make more money, and more food dollars stay in the local economy.
Last Tuesday, we hosted a gathering of more than 30 state and national leaders in the fields of health and food security to lay the foundation for coordinated approach to grow SNAP incentive programs in Texas. Representatives from the USDA, Fair Food Network, Texas Hunger Initiative, San Antonio Food Bank, American Heart Association, Texas Center for Local Food, Grow North Texas, and Houston’s Urban Harvest, and the Waco Farmers Market shared successes and discussed ways to overcome barriers each program is facing.
Over the past two years, Fair Food Network has partnered with organizations across the state to launch SNAP incentive programs at farmers markets from the Panhandle to Houston. In West Texas, Lowe’s grocery stores recently became the first brick-and-mortar grocery partner in Texas to offer its shoppers SNAP incentives. In the coming years, some organization’s present at last week’s convening will work to expand the number of sites offering SNAP incentives through greater outreach and capacity building.
The group also discussed long-term funding sources for both SNAP incentive programs and the requisite technology that farmers and farmers’ markets need to accept SNAP benefits. The 2018 Farm Bill includes $250 million in federal funds to support SNAP incentive programs through the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program. States, cities, and non-profit organizations can leverage this 1:1 federal match through a yearly competitive grant process. Those present at last week’s convening discussed ways to enhance the competitiveness of Texas’ applicants for federal funding as well as sustainable sources of matching funds at the state level.
To bookend the convening, we joined the American Heart Association and a growing number of groups to urge the 86th Texas Legislature, currently meeting in Austin, to appropriate the funds needed to pilot a statewide SNAP incentive program. Stay tuned to SFC’s Policy Beet for updates on this bill and other legislation in the Texas Legislature.