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Healthy Food

Connecting All Americans with Healthy, Safe, Affordable Food

USDA is expanding access to and increasing consumption of safe, healthy, affordable foods essential to optimal health and well-being. Improving what Americans eat significantly reduces diet-related chronic diseases and disparities. Ensuring that meat, poultry, and egg products are safe and properly labeled helps to prevent foodborne illnesses.

Read USDA Nutrition Security Blogs on Healthy Food

Promoting and supporting fruit and vegetable consumption

Mothers, Infants, and Young Children
  • Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can help reduce the risk of many leading causes of illness and death, such as type 2 diabetes and obesity. However, only 1 in 10 adults get enough fruit or vegetables. In FY 2021, the American Rescue Plan temporarily increased the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) monthly cash-value benefit used to purchase fruits and vegetables to $35 for women and children for up to 4 months. The FY 2022 Continuing Resolution extended that increase, shifting the amounts to $25 for children, $43 for pregnant and postpartum women, and $47 for fully and partially breastfeeding women—which are all substantially higher than the standard amount of $9 for children and $11 for women. This boost increases the purchasing power of WIC participants so that they can buy and consume more healthy fruits and vegetables.
  • USDA published a Request for Applications (RFA) for FY 2022 WIC Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (Supplemental Nutrition Plan for Women, Infants, and Children FMNP) Benefit Delivery Modernization Grants. This competitive grant opportunity uses funding provided in the American Rescue Plan for WIC outreach, innovation and program modernization, including: (1) increasing enrollment and retaining participants for the full length of their eligibility; and (2) reducing disparities in program delivery. The goal of this grant opportunity is to support State agencies—including Tribal nations and U.S. territories—in implementing an available and tested electronic, mobile WIC FMNP solution. Such solutions will modernize benefit delivery for WIC FMNP State agencies, participants, farmers, and farmers’ markets, and increase WIC benefit utilization at farmers’ markets. Applications are being accepted, reviewed, and awarded by Food and Nutrition Service on a quarterly basis.
School-Age Children
  • The Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP) provides free fresh fruits and vegetables to children at eligible elementary schools during the school day along with nutrition education. The program introduces kids to a variety of produce they otherwise might not have the opportunity to try. Students at schools that participate in FFVP consume approximately one-third of a cup more fruits and vegetables on FFVP days than their peers at schools not participating in FFVP. The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) provided more than $230 million to State agencies to support FFVP in FY 2022.
All Life Stages
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed) programs nationwide help low-income communities improve healthy food access by establishing gardens to teach participants how to grow, cook, and store fruits and vegetables. The Live Healthy Houma project in Louisiana has the support of community leaders, the local recreation department, and business sponsors to sustain its success. In its first year, the community teaching garden donated more than 500 pounds of fresh produce to families experiencing food insecurity.
  • As part of a grant to the National Association of Farmers Market Nutrition Programs (NAFMNP), the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provided farmers with a mobile application that allowed them to accept SNAP benefits via use of smartphone for the goods they produce as a low-cost point-of-sale option.
  • Through another grant to National Association of Farmers Market Nutrition Programs (NAFMP), the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is working to bring low-cost online SNAP purchasing and payment to farmers who market directly to consumers.
  • Scientists at the USDA Agricultural Research Service conduct research to understand why people do or don’t eat fruits and vegetables at various ages. Some studies focus on underserved and at-risk populations. This research can help inform efforts to encourage healthy eating.
  • Through the Commodity Procurement Program, the USDA purchases domestically produced and processed commodity food products. These products, collectively called USDA Foods, are delivered to schools, food banks, and households in communities across the country and are a vital component of our Nation's food safety net. USDA also purchases U.S.-produced food aid commodities for distribution to foreign countries, assisting vulnerable populations around the world.
  • The Transportation and Marketing Program supports the transportation of agricultural products, local and regional food systems, and increasing consumer access to fresh, healthy foods throughout the United States and abroad. These programs, grants, and services help small- and mid-sized producers with marketing opportunities through the combination of applied research, technical assistance, and financial support.

Using incentive programs to promote access to healthy eating

School-Age Children
  • USDA is proposing a new $100 million grant program, through the Food and Nutrition Service’s Team Nutrition initiative to incentivize healthy school food.
  • The Food and Nutrition Service’s Turnip the Beet Awards recognize outstanding summer meal program sponsors (i.e., Summer Food Service Program and National School Lunch Program Seamless Summer Option) across the Nation, who work hard to offer high quality, appetizing, and nutritious meals to children during the summer months.
All Life Stages
  • USDA helps SNAP authorized stores offer incentives that encourage SNAP recipients to purchase healthier foods. Per the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008, incentivized food must be a staple food or food product that is consistent with the most recent dietary recommendations, such as a carton of milk or fresh fruit. Retailers that are not part of a GusNIP project must get a SNAP equal treatment waiver from FNS.
  • USDA administers several incentive programs to encourage the purchase of nutritious foods, including the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program (GusNIP) and the Healthy Fluid Milk Incentive pilot program. In the second year of GusNIP, participants redeemed more than $20 million in nutrition incentives. GusNIP participants also reported increased fruit and vegetable intake and improvements in food security. The Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program brings together stakeholders from various parts of the food and healthcare systems to conduct and evaluate projects providing incentives to increase the purchase or procurement of fruits and vegetables by income-eligible consumers.
  • At local markets, many farmers participate in USDA incentive programs that increase participants’ purchasing power by providing additional benefits to encourage the purchase of fruits and vegetables. The Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program (GusNIP) was modeled after earlier “double-up-bucks” programs that were introduced at various markets across the country for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants. The success of GusNIP has led to State-funded incentives with similar goals. The findings from year 2 (PDF, 11 MB) show that participants redeemed more than $20 million dollars in nutrition incentives and produce prescriptions distributed by GusNIP and the program generated an economic impact of about $41 million dollars. In addition, participants reported greater fruit and vegetable intake and improvements in food security.
  • USDA Rural Development administers the Healthy Food Financing Initiative which provides resources to retailers to help them overcome the higher costs and initial barriers to selling healthy foods in areas with inequitable access. Through the program’s National Fund Manager, USDA has deployed $4.4 million in grants to 30 projects across the country. The program has created more than 460 permanent jobs and delivered 182,750 square feet of brick and mortar space to sell, store, or distribute food for underserved areas.

Providing healthy foods directly to people in need

All Life Stages
  • The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) provides nutritious, 100 percent domestic USDA Foods for use in several nutrition assistance programs, including The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR), and school meal programs. FNS helps participants select and use the healthy options provided by these programs through a wide range of educational products, such as culturally appropriate recipes, information sheets, and resource libraries.
  • The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service is developing a new and improved approach to reduce Salmonella illnesses associated with poultry. FSIS also continues to implement a data-driven regulatory strategy to improve pathogen control in raw meat and processing.
  • The Food Safety Outreach Program develops and implements Food Safety Modernization Act training, education, outreach and technical assistance for food processors and farmers with small to mid-size operations.

 

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