Refugees receiving food subsidies will get “culturally appropriate fruits and vegetables” thanks to grants from the federal government.
The Department of Agriculture (USDA) is allocating $564,231 to an aid group that helps refugees sign-up for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.
The initiative is called “Fresh Fund: Leveraging investment for a healthier food system in refugee and immigrant communities,” according to USDA’s announcement.
USDA said the goal for the program is to “increase availability of locally-grown, culturally appropriate fruits and vegetables among refugee and immigrant populations,” and set a benchmark for the IRC to “enroll at least 3,100 participants in Fresh Fund over four years.”
In 2015, the IRC helped “7,000 refugees, including children and the elderly, have benefited from access to locally grown produce,” the group said in a blog post. USDA’s statement says immigrant communities “are highly dependent on SNAP to meet nutritional needs” and “are at risk for both under-nutrition and obesity.”
The grant ends in 2019, and the IRC will use the money to assist farmers markets and corner stores to deliver healthy food to welfare recipients in immigrant communities around Salt Lake City, Utah, Phoenix, Ariz., Baltimore, Md., and Charlottesville, Va. The IRC may also use the money to open new farmers markets.
In the past two years, USDA has increased incentive programs to subsidize food purchased at farmers markets with the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive program (FINI). “Programs like FINI build on the success we’ve seen with the use of healthy incentives and with many of the projects being run at farmers markets, we’re also helping to strengthen local and regional food systems,” Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said in a statement last week. USDA allocated $16.8 million in 2016 to promote healthy diets among SNAP recipients.
The IRC, a global non-profit which works closely with the Department of State’s United States Agency for International Development, has 26 centers in the U.S. to help refugees resettle. Most refugees receive a variety of welfare programs when they first arrive in the country. More than 10,000 refugees will likely enter the U.S. this year under President Barack Obama’s asylum program, and new research finds that each refugee costs taxpayers around $20,000.
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