Frozen produce would share the spotlight with fresh fruit and vegetables in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)-related nutrition incentives under new legislation in the U.S. Senate.
Sens. John Cornyn (R., Texas) and Ben Ray Luján (D., New Mexico) have introduced the Supporting All Healthy Options When Purchasing Produce (SHOPP) Act (S.2223), which would extend the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program (GusNIP) and GusNIP Produce Prescription Program to include frozen as well as fresh produce.
Stemming from the 2018 Farm Bill, GusNIP enables the U.S. Department of Agriculture to develop and evaluate projects that provide point-of-purchase incentives to SNAP-eligible shoppers to drive consumption of fruit and vegetables. The GusNIP Produce Prescription Program supports initiatives that “prescribe” fresh fruit and vegetables to consumers to foster wellness through purchases of healthier foods, lower food insecurity among households and individuals, and reduce health care usage and costs.
However, GusNIP currently provides funding only to projects offering incentives for fresh produce, not frozen. The SHOPP Act would require the USDA to also consider GusNIP grant applications and projects that promote or incentivize frozen fruit and vegetable consumption among SNAP participants. Likewise, the Produce Prescription Program—currently limited to fresh produce—would be amended to allow the inclusion of frozen fruit, vegetables and legumes.
“SNAP participants who live in areas that lack access to affordable produce shouldn’t be forced to go without the nutrients they need,” Cornyn said in a statement. “This legislation would make sure Texans can access frozen fruits and vegetables, and I urge my colleagues in the House and Senate to support it.”
Cornyn introduced the SHOPP Act, cosponsored by Luján, to the Senate on July 10. The bill then was referred to the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee.
“Whether in rural or urban communities, SNAP participants deserve a program that meets their needs. The SHOPP Act will help ensure that everyone can bring home fruits and vegetables, no matter where they live,” Luján commented when S.2223 was introduced. “This legislation will improve SNAP and enact simple solutions that make produce consumption easier.”
The American Frozen Food Institute (AFFI) endorsed the SHOPP Act last week, noting that the bill would give “equal consideration” to frozen fruit and vegetables in nutrition program food incentives as well as “help close a produce intake gap” among lower-income households.
Cornyn, Luján and AFFI also highlighted the issue of access. For example, frozen fruit and vegetables may be more feasible options for SNAP recipients living in rural or urban food deserts and be easier to transport to areas on the last mile of a delivery route.
“Frozen food offers many benefits to families, helping to make mealtimes easier and more accessible. The SHOPP Act will help ensure that households can more easily achieve a healthy diet with SNAP and increase their produce consumption thanks to frozen fruits and vegetables,” AFFI President and CEO Alison Bodor stated. “We urge Congress to act now on the SHOPP Act to help families enjoy fruits and vegetables.”
S.2223 is companion legislation to the initial House bill H.R. 3127, the SHOPP Act, introduced in May by Rep. Jasmine Crockett (D., Texas) and now in the House Subcommittee on Nutrition, Foreign Agriculture and Horticulture. It currently has 14 cosponsors, including original cosponsor Rep. Mark Alford (R., Missouri).
Crockett on Wednesday applauded the introduction of the Senate bill.
“Senators Cornyn and Luján know just as well as Congressman Alford and I do that families need the flexibility to purchase the kinds of fruits and vegetables that fit their needs and budgets,” she said in a statement. “I’m grateful to them for joining our effort to expand accessibility and affordability of produce for American families, especially with kids at home during the summer months. Whether you live near a grocery store, a farmer’s market or a corner store, you should be able to access nutritious food all year. The SHOPP Act will help make that possible.”
GusNIP builds on the USDA’s Healthy Incentive Pilot (HIP) and Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentives (FINI) grant program. Since its inception in 2019, GusNIP has provided more than $270 million in funding to 197 projects nationwide, USDA reported.