Increased USDA Support to Nutrition Programs Strengthens Food Systems: Food and Nutrition Service Highlights from the First Year of the Biden Administration

The following article was published by USDA – FNS on January 19, 2022.

WASHINGTON, Jan. 19, 2022 – USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) today recognized the strides made toward advancing market opportunities in America’s food and agriculture industries throughout year one of the Biden-Harris Administration. Through efforts to strengthen the food supply chain, USDA and the administration have demonstrated their steadfast commitment to creating economic opportunity and promoting fairness for American farmers, producers, and consumers.

“A strong and resilient supply chain is critical to our ability to deliver federal food assistance to millions of Americans,” said Stacy Dean, deputy under secretary for food, nutrition, and consumer services. “While COVID-19 exposed vulnerabilities, it also presented an opportunity to build back better by creating better and fairer markets that can support businesses and consumers in good times and bad.”

FNS Administrator Cindy Long added, “USDA is committed to supporting the nation’s food systems, ensuring our programs can deliver nutrition assistance to Americans in need. FNS has worked tirelessly to mitigate the immediate impact of supply chain issues on its programs while leveraging all the tools at our disposal to strengthen food systems for the future.”

Highlights of FNS efforts to create more and better market opportunities since January 2021 include:

Providing Schools Relief from Supply Chain Disruptions

Supply chain issues have rippled through the entire economy, especially the food industry. As part of a comprehensive set of investments, USDA allocated $1.5 billion to school meal programs to help them overcome pandemic-related supply chain challenges that have made it harder to serve kids meals. The unprecedented funding made available through USDA’s Commodity Credit Corporation includes $1 billion for schools to purchase American-produced food for their meal programs and another $300 million for states to purchase domestic foods to be distributed to schools. An additional $200 million will be used for schools to purchase local foods through cooperative agreements, with a focus on buying from historically underserved producers.

In addition to this financial boost, FNS has provided significant flexibilities, resources, and hands-on support to help schools adapt to the ever-changing pandemic situation and its impact on the supply chain. States and schools have leveraged that support, in partnership with USDA, to deploy a broad range of creative solutions to ensure children continued to access nutritious meals, while also investing in their local economies. For example:

  • In Missouri, schools teamed up with local producers, hospitals and grocers to increase their collective buying-power.
  • In Pennsylvania, state agency staff worked directly with food distributors to ensure that schools were able to get the supplies they need.
  • To address staffing shortages, culinary students in Kansas supported school food service staff, while Wyoming schools converted part-time cafeteria employees to full-time positions with benefits.
Increasing Economic Opportunities for Farmers through SNAP

USDA has worked rapidly to expand online purchasing in SNAP over the past year, adding 89 stores and store-banners representing thousands of new retailers since January 2021. SNAP online purchasing offers the same convenience to SNAP participants that millions of Americans rely on to buy food. As part of its commitment to expanding market opportunities and boosting local economies, the department awarded a $4 million grant to the National Association of Farmers Market Nutrition Programs, a nonprofit organization that will help farmers accept SNAP benefits online. This will help SNAP participants purchase fresh food seamlessly and conveniently, while also helping local farmers reach a broader customer base.

Boosting Purchases of Domestic and Local Agricultural Products

Through a variety of actions, FNS and the Biden-Harris Administration have encouraged the purchase of local foods to help expand markets and make the food system more fair, competitive, and resilient. For example, FNS:

  • Allocated $12 million in Farm to School Grants to a record-breaking 176 grantees – serving 6,800 schools and more than 1.4 million children – to incorporate local food as well as food and agriculture education into school meals and other child nutrition programs. USDA also awarded $5.5 million in Team Nutrition Grants to help 21 states increase the use of local foods in school meals.
  • Purchased over $28 million of local produce to provide high-need families with pre-packed, mixed produce through the TEFAP Fresh Produce initiative. This is one of many ways FNS and USDA are investing in the emergency food system.
  • Awarded $3.5 million in Self-Determination Demonstration Project contracts to eight Tribal Organizations that administer the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR). A portion of those funds will be used to purchase local, traditional foods from Tribal vendors and producers.

USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service leverages its 15 nutrition assistance programs to ensure that children, low-income individuals, and families have opportunities for a better future through equitable access to safe, healthy, and nutritious food, while building a more resilient food system. Under the leadership of Secretary Tom Vilsack, FNS is fighting to end food and nutrition insecurity for all through programs such as SNAP, school meals, and WIC. FNS also provides science-based nutrition recommendations through the co-development of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.”

National Association of Farmers Market Nutrition Programs MarketLink Program Unveils Innovative Online SNAP Payments Solution

Press Release

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Photo by Kampus Production on

Alexandria, VA (January 2022) – Direct marketing farmers nationwide are already familiar with the highly successful MarketLink mobile app Totil Pay Go. Early in 2022, the NAFMNP
MarketLink Program will launch an Online SNAP Payments Solution, adding to its federal
nutrition payments portfolio. Direct marketing farmers will have the option to accept secure, PIN-based online SNAP transactions and grow their SNAP customer base using the MarketLink Online Solution. The NAFMNP MarketLink Program, in partnership with Nova Dia Group, Inc. (NDG) and FIS Worldpay, will develop four eCommerce platforms, beginning with Local Food Marketplace, and then adding Fellow Farmer; GrownBy; and WhatsGood.

SNAP-authorized direct marketing farmers will receive:
● Authorization assistance to become online-ready
● Access to one of the four eCommerce platforms at no cost for one-year
● Technical and training support from the eCommerce platform team
● On-going communication as well as platform maintenance and security updates.

NAFMNP is supported by a cooperative agreement with the United States Department of
Agriculture (USDA), Food and Nutrition Services (FNS).

Access to SNAP online payments is part of NAFMNP’s ongoing commitment to developing
innovative solutions that work for farmers and consumers. “We are excited to have this
opportunity to provide yet another option for farmers to sell directly,” stated NAFMNP
Executive Director, Phil Blalock. “Working with USDA on these solutions continues to build on our commitment to small farmers and the markets that serve them.”

The development of the eCommerce platform is especially crucial during a time where the
Covid-19 pandemic has altered so much of the consumers’ purchasing methods. With the Covid19 pandemic normalizing consumers’ habits from shopping in-person to more online orders and curbside pickup, NAFMNP firmly believes more than ever in the need for an online platform that allows consumer access to and redemption of federal benefits programs. A recent McKinsey report on post-pandemic trends confirmed that consumer spending on eCommerce sites increased by 35% between March and June of 2021. Additionally, one-third of American households experienced a decrease in their income which caused them to shift purchasing values to essential goods such as groceries and household supplies.

To view the entire Press Release click here.

A Welcoming Message to Visitors

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Photo by Tembela Bohle on

Our mission is cultivating opportunities for consumers to buy fresh produce from local growers.

On behalf of the Departments of Agriculture, Departments of Health, Senior Agencies and Indian Tribal Organizations (ITOs) that coordinate the WIC or Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program, welcome to our website.

This website is an effort to improve the communication with our association members and partner agencies and also to better communicate our programs with U.S. residents seeking ways to access locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables. Please review the State Programs list for a program in your state and contact a coordinating agency for more information on how to participate in either of these programs where you live.

In addition, we have provided information on the site for farmers interested in becoming an EBT retailer to accept SNAP purchases at farmers markets as well. Refer to the MarketLink section for information on how to begin the application process.

Please refer to the Resources section for information regarding other USDA Supplemental Nutrition Programs and programs benefiting farmers markets.

To learn more about the organization, the programs it supports, its leaders, and membership benefits see the About page.