Hunger Free Oklahoma Secures USDA Grant to Address Reduced Access to Fruits and Vegetables Due to COVID-19

Hunger Free Oklahoma Secures USDA Grant to Address Reduced Access to Fruits and Vegetables Due to COVID-19

 

Monday, August 23, 2021 (Tulsa, OK) – Last week, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that Hunger Free Oklahoma was 1 of 35 recipients nationally to be awarded a Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program COVID-19 Relief and Response (GusCRR) grant. The grant award of $650,000, from USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, is critical to continuing the Double Up Oklahoma (DUO) program at 27 farmers markets and grocery stores and allowing expansion to high-need areas across the state for the next year. Double Up Oklahoma offers a dollar for dollar match on SNAP purchases for fruits and vegetables at participating stores.

“NIFA’s Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program, COVID-19 Relief and Response grants help low-income communities offer incentives to improve the affordability and consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables by vulnerable participants, many of whom may have been affected by the pandemic,” said NIFA director Dr. Carrie Castille. “GusNIP awardees are particularly well-positioned to respond with pandemic relief in an impactful and timely way.”

GusCRR funds awarded to Hunger Free Oklahoma will be used to continue the program in current stores and markets through September of 2022, offsetting the cost of increased participation during the peak of the COVID-19-related economic crisis. Additionally, the funds will allow Hunger Free Oklahoma to expand the program to systemically underserved communities in Oklahoma.

According to Richard Comeau, program director at Hunger Free Oklahoma, “Since COVID-19, the demand on our DUO program has doubled. Over 1,500 families per week utilized DUO at the peak of the COVID-19 crisis, many of whom were furloughed or laid off and were looking for any resource to make ends meet. Even as the economy has rebounded, we continue to see high rates of participation in the program.”

GusCRR funding will be put to use immediately. Through an existing partnership with Homeland Stores, Double Up Oklahoma will begin operating at the new Homeland at NE 36th and Lincoln on September 1 in conjunction with the store’s grand opening. Partnering DUO with the store, located in what is currently considered a food desert in Northeast Oklahoma City, will offer increased options and access to fresh fruits and vegetables for the local community.

Hunger Free Oklahoma believes this will have a big impact on the community. “Results from the past year of the program are promising. Feedback from customers and sales data indicate that DUO participants were able to stretch their dollar further, increase the variety of fresh fruits and vegetables in their grocery carts, and buy more produce overall,” said Chris Bernard, executive director at Hunger Free Oklahoma. “We can’t ask for better results than more purchasing power for food insecure Oklahomans, increasing fruit and vegetable purchases, and additional dollars flowing back into our local economies.”

Hunger Free Oklahoma would like to bring the DUO program to more communities across the state.  The program is funded through a combination of competitive USDA matching grants, a COVID-19 response grant from the Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Trust (TSET), and philanthropic giving. For sustainable long-term growth and success, the program needs increased private and public financial support. To learn more about DUO and how to support Hunger Free Oklahoma’s mission check out www.HungerFreeOK.org/DoubleUpOK.

SNAP participants interested in participating in the DUO program can find locations and information about the program at www.DoubleUpOklahoma.org.

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Hunger Free Oklahoma works to leverage the power of collaboration to solve hunger in Oklahoma by improving systems, policies, and practices. Learn more at HungerFreeOK.org. Apply for SNAP by phone: 1 (877) 760-0114.

Double Up Oklahoma, a program of Hunger Free Oklahoma, doubles the value (up to $20 per day) of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) dollars spent at participating farmers markets and grocery stores in Oklahoma. Learn more at DoubleUpOklahoma.org. Support for Double Up Oklahoma provided through the USDA through the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program, the Gus Schumacher COVID Relief and Response Program, the Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET), The Ardmore Institute of Health, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma, Sanford and Irene Burnstein Foundation, Fair Food Network, George Kaiser Family Foundation, Life.Church, Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies, and The Anne and Henry Zarrow Foundation.

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