June is National Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Month! Fruits and vegetables are a vital – and delicious – part of a healthy diet. According to the 2020–2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, adults should consume 1.5 to 2 cups of fresh fruits and 2 to 3 cups of vegetables each day.
USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) supports programs that are working toward a safe, nutritious food supply while also developing, delivering and disseminating evidence-based nutrition education and promotion.
The Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program (GusNIP) has been increasing access to healthy foods since its creation in the 2014 Farm Bill. Named in honor of the former USDA Under Secretary of Agriculture for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services (1997-2001), GusNIP provides Nutrition Incentive grants to increase consumer purchasing of produce. Eligible participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program are provided incentives at the point of purchase. Produce Prescription grants, a second component of GusNIP, offer incentive prescriptions of fresh produce in addition to nutrition educational opportunities. Since 2019, GusNIP has funded over 80 projects and distributed more than $104 million to both make fresh fruits and vegetables more available and increase food and nutrition security.
Another NIFA initiative, the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP), uses education to support participants’ efforts toward self-sufficiency, nutritional health and well-being. Launched in 1969, EFNEP is the nation’s first nutrition education program for low-income populations and remains at the forefront of nutrition education efforts to reduce nutrition insecurity of low-income families and youths today.
NIFA’s Community Food Projects Competitive Grant Program (CFPCGP) increases food security in communities by bringing the whole food system together to assess strengths, establish linkages and create systems that improve the self-reliance of community members over their food needs. Since 2017, CFPGP has funded nearly 100 projects and distributed more than $23 million to increase food and nutrition security.
The Food and Agriculture Service Learning Program (FASLP) increases the knowledge of agricultural science and improves the nutritional health of children. FASLP’s goal is to increase the capacity for food, garden and nutrition education within host organizations or entities, such as school cafeterias and classrooms, while fostering higher levels of community engagement between farms and school systems. The initiative is part of a broader effort to not only increase access to school meals for low-income children but also to improve their quality.
Photo: Various healthy fruits and vegetables background. Courtesy of Adobe Stock.