Food assistance could get boost from Kildee’s legislation

Legislation to expand access to food assistance programming by increasing federal matching funds was introduced Tuesday by U.S. Reps. Rick Crawford (R-Ark.) and Dan Kildee (D-Flint).

Currently, GusNIP nutrition assistance programs, programs that are a part of a federal initiative to improve the nutritional value of food available to low-income households, get 50% funding from the state and 50% from federal spending. The legislation aims to expand the number of states participating in programs and increase the number of people served by allowing up to 80% of funding for a state’s programming to come from the federal government,

In Michigan, this means “Double Up Food Bucks,” a program that allows individuals using the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as SNAP benefits, to double their fruit and vegetable intake by receiving a dollar-for-dollar match on purchases of locally grown produce.

Additional federal funding will take a program that already does a lot of good in Michigan and expand it to help more people, Kildee said in a news release Tuesday

“Increasing access to local fruits and vegetables supports farmers and makes our community healthier,” Kildee said in the news release. “Successful programs like Double Up Food Bucks are making a positive impact on our community.” 

The Fiscal Year 2024 budget the state Legislature approved, which now awaits Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s signature, includes $2 million of spending for the Double Up Food Bucks program. According to Kildee’s office, states like Michigan that already dedicate funding for GusNIP programming could receive more funding for those programs as federal matching would increase with the legislation.

Kildee’s Republican colleague Congressman Crawford adds that as federal lawmakers work on a new Farm Bill, which sets long term policy for agriculture, it’s a good idea to solidify GusNIP’s place as a valuable initiative.

“Rising food costs have made it even more difficult for families to afford to make healthy choices at the grocery store,” Crawford said. “Incentivizing folks to purchase more fruits and vegetables not only improves their health but is an investment in our farmers.”

Kildee’s office says organizations like the American Heart Association, the Fair Food Network, the Farmers Market Coalition and Save the Children are in support of the legislation.

Expanding programming is going to help people with limited financial resources not only combat food insecurity, but invest in their overall health, Lauri Wright, president of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics said.

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