Community Letter: Support funding for fruit & vegetable SNAP incentives (FINI)

Dear Chair Ormbsy and Chair Rolfes and members of the Legislature,

We urge the Legislature to invest in expanding access to fruits and vegetables for low income people with the SNAP incentives/ Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentives (FINI) program, which provide food assistance to low income people so they can afford to buy more fruits and vegetables (HB 1587). These programs reduce hunger, improve health, and support local farmers and grocery stores.

One in 8 Washingtonians can’t afford enough food for their households so they receive SNAP (food stamps): 36% of those are children. Fruits and vegetables, a critical part of a healthy diet and lifelong healthy habits, are not easily affordable in Washington with the average SNAP budget of $4 a day per person.

When more than 10% of all Washington households live with food insecurity, and low income people are disproportionately impacted by poor health, this program offer a significant and evidence-based solution to these twin problems facing low income people with SNAP.

Washington’s nationally-recognized competitive federal Fruit & Vegetable SNAP Incentives grant has been enormously successful over the past four years in addressing hunger and health for SNAP clients while supporting local agriculture – including 90 farmers markets in 28 counties – and retailers – including 168 Safeway stores - across our state. In addition, Washington is working with 15 health care systems with 68 clinics and community sites, where health care providers write “prescriptions” for fruits and vegetables to eligible low income patients.

These program strategies have proven to be effective:
 --- Low income SNAP shoppers now spend 15% more on fruits/vegetables at grocery stores and 19% more at farmers markets.
--- 72% of patients report managing their health conditions better.
--- 75% said their food was less likely to run out.

All because SNAP customers now have help stretching their food budget so produce is easier to afford.

Yet the federal grant funding this program will run out of funds this year. We urge the legislature to include funding in the budget to continue this successful program. In addition to continuing this program, state funds in the budget will do two important things:
  •  State funds will position Washington to be able to apply for another federal grant, which requires a 1:1 match; and

  •  State funds will enable our state to draw down $450,000 from a private grant that is available only if state funds are allocated to DOH's SNAP incentive program in the final budget.

Signed,

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