Durbin, Duckworth Announce More than $1 Million In Federal Funding To Help SNAP Participants In Chicago And Aurora Purchase Healthy, Local Foods

CHICAGO – U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) awarded a total of $1,075,287 in grant funding to Illinois agencies in Chicago and Aurora to help Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants increase their purchases of fruits and vegetables.  The funding comes from the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) program, authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill.  Since 2014, NIFA has awarded more than $65 million through the FINI program.

“In Illinois, two million people are served by food assistance programs, including children whose parents are struggling to make ends meet, seniors living on a limited income, and men and women who lost their jobs or got sick,” Durbin said.  “This funding will help hard-working families and individuals in Chicago and Aurora put more nutritious foods on their tables while supporting local farmers in the process.”

“I understand from personal experience just how crucial food assistance programs are to the health and strength of our nation’s families,” said Duckworth. “After my father lost his job when I was a teenager, food stamps and low-cost meals at school saved me from going hungry. Now I’m proud to announce this funding with Senator Durbin to help ensure no child has to go to school hungry and our families have access to the food they need to lead healthy lives.” 

Presence Chicago Hospitals Network: Chicago, Illinois

Presence Chicago Hospitals Network was awarded $100,000 in federal grant funding.  The aim of their project is to provide coupons and offer points of sale (POS) discounts to SNAP participants in the West Town area of Chicago to be redeemed at Presence Saints Mary and Elizabeth Medical Center’s (PSMEMC) farmers markets, which will feature locally grown and culturally sensitive fruits and vegetables.  Their project will serve a largely low-income, Latino population that is faced with barriers related to access to foods that are healthy and affordable. 

The Experimental Station: Chicago, Illinois 

The Experimental Station was awarded $487,197 in federal grant funding.  They are located in an underserved neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side, and will work to increase the affordability of fruits and vegetables sold in Illinois Farmers Markets for SNAP participants.  The project aims to expand the SNAP Double Coupon Program incentive to an additional 80 Illinois Farmers Markets and direct-to-consumer venues.  Currently, the project has funded almost 90 farmers markets and direct-to-consumer venues statewide and facilitated thousands of SNAP shoppers to purchase almost $500,000 of additional fresh and healthy foods with the Double Value Coupon incentives.  More than 22,000 low-income Illinois residents will benefit from affordable access to the region’s freshest fruits, vegetables, and other healthy goods. 

VNA Health Care: Aurora, Illinois

VNA Health Care (VNA) was awarded $488,090 in federal grant funding.  VNA will expand and implement "FreshFirst", a fruit and vegetable prescription and nutrition education program within Aurora, Illinois.  This project addresses access to fresh fruit and vegetables, health education, and culinary skills, integrated with access to primary care to increase fresh produce consumption in a vulnerable population of low-income families at increased risk for food insecurity, obesity, and other chronic disease.  In addition, this project will include screening for SNAP and WIC eligibility to promote and improve participation in these programs and screening for food insecurity and linkage with a local food pantry to increase year round access to produce.

In 2013, during negotiations on the Farm Bill, Durbin vocally advocated against proposed cuts to the SNAP program, which would have cut $40 billion from food assistance programs over 10 years and instituted changes in eligibility that would have caused 280,000 children nationwide to lose free school meals.

Duckworth has also been a long-time supporter of the SNAP program and has spoken out against recent Republican efforts to cut SNAP funding. Duckworth will continue her work to ensure the program has the resources it needs to provide low-income families with access to essential nutrition.