IDFA to ask for more funding for SNAP milk initiative in the next farm bill
PALM DESERT, Calif. – The International Dairy Foods Association will ask Congress in the next farm bill for more funding for the SNAP Healthy Fluid Milk Incentives Project (HFMIP) and to make that funding mandatory, IDFA President and CEO Michael Dykes told The Hagstrom Report here during the group’s Dairy Forum this week.
The pilot program allows grocery stores to provide shoppers who use Supplemental Nutrition Program benefits to purchase milk to get a coupon for additional free milk. The program follows the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and the qualifying milk is limited to fluid milk (pasteurized, unflavored and unsweetened cow’s milk – skim or 1%). Dykes also said IDFA calls for more flexibility in what products SNAP beneficiaries can get with the added benefit.
Following the success of incentive programs for SNAP beneficiaries to obtain fruits and vegetables, the 2018 farm bill authorized $20 million total for the milk pilots for the duration of the bill, which expires on Sept. 30, 2023.
Appropriators provided $1 million in each of fiscal years 2020 and 2021, but the fiscal year 2022 appropriations bill would provide $3 million for the program.
HFMIP pilots are in operation at three locations in Texas with the $1 million allotted to the pilot program from FY20, and a pilot is expected to begin operation in New Jersey this fall using the $1 million fiscal year 2021 appropriations.
If Congress includes the $3 million in a final FY22 appropriations bill, that would allow expansion in other parts of the country and more measurement, an IDFA spokesman said.
The Texas program is operated by USDA with Baylor Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty. Baylor received a $930,000 award through a competitive process and is partnering with South Plains Hunger Solutions Coalition and Lowe’s Supermarkets to develop and test incentives at local Food King grocery stores in Littlefield, Lubbock, and San Angelo, Texas, USDA said.
At a panel discussion during the Dairy Forum, Jeremy Everett, executive director of the Baylor collaborative, and Ted Mason of the National Grocers Association Foundation Technical Assistance Center explained the value of the program to low-income people and to the dairy industry.
Everett said that people need SNAP mostly due to underemployment and that the SNAP healthy milk incentive is important because people run out of SNAP benefits toward the end of the month.
While some advocates have suggested limiting what people can buy with SNAP benefits, Everett said, “Incentives work better than restricting what people can purchase.”
Mason said that the grocers had already worked with the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program (GusNIP), which is administered by USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service and USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture and supports projects to increase the purchase of fruits and vegetables among SNAP recipients.
Mason said that studies have proven that GusNIP results in “measurable, identifiable increases in produce sales” while Everett said the milk program “really needs to be more robustly scaled” to be properly evaluated.
Figuring out the technicalities of providing the milk coupons was a challenge, but young staffers in the grocery business were enthused about developing a system, Mason said.
Everett noted that the coupons create loyalty to the stores among low-income consumers.
Both Everett and Mason urged the dairy executives to become involved in nutrition programs by forging partnerships with local organizations.
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