Government Launches Program To Help Low-Income Families Buy Local Produce

| by Edward Arnold

In an effort to get low-income Americans to eat more healthily, the federal government is launching a program that will double the value of a person's food stamp when it is used on local produce.

The initiative originates in the 2014 Farm Bill, specifically in the Food Insecurity Nutrition Initiative (FINI). The project wants to increase the purchase of fruits and vegetables in low-income consumers participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). SNAP replaced the original term of food stamps and is the largest program in the domestic hunger safety net.

The idea is to have local markets provide low-income areas with fresh produce to buy. The dilemma is that fresh fruits and vegetables cost more than less healthful food.

Now, officials are using incentives to promote low-income consumers to use their SNAP benefits at local farmers' markets. If someone spends $10 in SNAP benefits at a local farmers' market, for example, they would receive $4 in coupons to buy more produce next time.

According to NPR, the idea originated in 2005 in New York City.

The program will go into effect next year.

However, according to CBS News, the bigger question may be whether spending more can actually result in savings. Essentially, can a dose of daily kale or carrots make a dent in healthcare costs for low-income Americans?

If Americans increased their consumption of fruits and vegetables to meet federal dietary recommendations, that would lower the country's costs for cardiovascular treatment by $17 billion alone.  

Although everyone gets in an uproar about any government spending, the $100 million is definitely a step in the right direction toward addressing a major health concern for low-income Americans to get good-quality food.

Photo credit: Sanaview