The United States Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service awarded the Hunger Solutions Institute (HSI) in Auburn University’s College of Human Sciences a nearly $4 million grant for the 2023 Healthy Fluid Milk Incentives program (HFMI 2023), the second award to HSI since 2022.
With this three-year award, HSI will continue leading development and testing methods to increase the purchase and consumption of qualifying fluid milk among Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants by providing a discount at the time of purchase. This new grant will significantly expand the current “Add Milk!” pilot project.
HSI launched Add Milk! in 2022 with a nearly $3 million grant from USDA. In 2022, the program operated in four states at 116 locations.
Alicia Powers, Managing Director of the Hunger Solutions Institute in the College of Human Sciences at Auburn University.
“Nutrition incentive programs make healthier foods more accessible to individuals who may be living on a limited budget. Milk provides 13 nutrients in one glass, and nutritionally dense foods can help individuals live a healthier lifestyle,” said Alicia Powers, managing director of HSI. “This award will extend the work we started in 2022 and allow Add Milk! to reach more communities with limited resources.”
With the new funding, Add Milk! will add 575 participating locations operated by 16 partnering retailers in 16 states and shift the model to an automatic discount for qualifying milk purchases of skim or 1% milk . USDA Deputy Undersecretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Stacy Dean stated, “This grant reinforces USDA’s and Auburn University’s joint commitment to putting healthy foods and beverages within reach for all Americans. Shifting to an incentive model that provides an automatic discount at the point of purchase is fundamental to ensuring affordability and equitable access to healthy fluid milk for SNAP households.”
In addition to Powers, HFMI researchers include Kara Newby, project administrator for HSI, and Joel Cuffey, an agriculture economist in Auburn’s College of Agriculture. They are investigating the use and effectiveness of Add Milk! along with determining how the nutrition incentive influences use of SNAP dollars. Analyses to-date revealed SNAP households are utilizing the incentive to stretch their SNAP dollars throughout the month and support the purchase of healthier foods.
“Cuffey’s research is helping us understand how the program is working, how it is supporting SNAP households and what we can do to improve it,” Powers said.
The new grant will also allow HSI to expand its research scope to better understand SNAP-authorized retailers — including independent retail grocers, supercenters that combine groceries and a department store and convenience stores — to further inform scaling up the program.
“Research is at the core of all we do at Auburn University, with the end goal being to find ways to enhance quality of life for individuals, families and communities,” said Susan Hubbard, dean of the College of Human Sciences at Auburn University. “We are proud of Alicia Powers’ leadership through the Hunger Solutions Institute and to know this effort to put healthy options on the tables of low-income families is growing from four states to 16 in less than a year is phenomenal.”
Since its formation in 2012, HSI has championed the End Child Hunger in Alabama campaign, Double Up Food Bucks Alabama and Hunger Free Higher Ed, which work to seek solutions to reducing food insecurity in Alabama, across the nation and around the world.
USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service works to end hunger and improve food and nutrition security through a suite of 16 nutrition assistance programs, such as the school breakfast and lunch programs, WIC and SNAP. Together, these programs serve 1 in 4 Americans over the course of a year, promoting consistent and equitable access to healthy, safe, and affordable food essential to optimal health and well-being. FNS also provides science-based nutrition recommendations through the co-development of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
Auburn University is a nationally ranked land grant institution recognized for its commitment to world-class scholarship, interdisciplinary research with an elite, top-tier Carnegie R1 classification, life-changing outreach with Carnegie’s Community Engagement designation and an undergraduate education experience second to none. Auburn is home to more than 30,000 students, and its faculty and research partners collaborate to develop and deliver meaningful scholarship, science and technology-based advancements that meet pressing regional, national and global needs. Auburn’s commitment to active student engagement, professional success and public/private partnership drives a growing reputation for outreach and extension that delivers broad economic, health and societal impact.