USDA Funding Awarded to MFFM and Partners

Today the Maine Federation of Farmers’ Markets celebrates USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack’s announcement of $31.5 million granted through the Food Insecurity Nutrition Program (FINI). National nonprofit Wholesome Wave received a $3.77 million FINI grant, of which MFFM, as a subgrantee, will receive substantial funding, which will be used to support increased access to fruits and vegetables for the food insecure at farmers’ markets across Maine, while also benefitting small and mid-sized farmers in the region.

MFFM will be working with a number of other Maine partners (largely through the Maine Local Foods Access Network) to implement incentive programs at markets throughout the state, including Food AND Medicine, Healthy Acadia, Maine Farmland Trust, Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, Cultivating Community, and St. Mary’s Nutrition Center.

“We were very excited to help secure this level of funding to improve low-income food access at Maine farmers’ markets,” says Leigh Hallett, Executive Director of MFFM. “Enhancing farmers’ markets incentive programs not only brings healthy, local produce within reach of more people, but keeps more grocery dollars in the local community.” “Thanks to the efforts of many across Maine and beyond who are working both individually and collaboratively through the Maine Local Foods Access Network, Maine is well poised to use this grant to make healthy locally-produced food more accessible to more Mainers in a state where food insecurity is so high,” adds Maine Farmland Trust Farm Viability Program Director, Mike Gold.

Since 1991, MFFM has been committed to cultivating a vibrant, sustainable farmers’ market community as a vital part of Maine’s local food network. The Federation works with farmers, consumers, and communities to make wholesome, locally-grown foods available to all residents, to educate consumers about food resources, and to support farm viability. The grant issued to MFFM will increase affordable access to fresh fruits and vegetables for SNAP consumers in at Maine farmers’ markets, while also supporting local agriculture.

MFFM received this award as a subgrantee on a larger $3.77 million grant, which nonprofit Wholesome Wave obtained from the USDA to support their national network of nutrition incentive partners. As part of the Maine Local Food Access Network, MFFM is one of 32 community-based organizations that will join Wholesome Wave in this large-scale FINI Project. Wholesome Wave’s network is a robust community of innovation and learning, linking incentive programs through uniform data collection and evaluation to support the expansion and adoption of incentives through policy. Wholesome Wave’s project is one of many that received support as part of the total $31.5 million granted by USDA in this cycle.

With the award from Wholesome Wave, MFFM will support incentive programs in at least 10 farmers’ markets across the state. In conjunction with the other Maine Local Food Access Network partners, Wholesome Wave will implement incentives at a total of 74 local food outlets in Maine.

“We are thrilled to be working with such a diverse and competent group of incentive operators across the nation. This network brings together organizations ranging from a flourishing farmers market group to a large scale nonprofit, capitalizing on the grassroots expertise of community leaders, while also building regional and national impact that allows us to enact the kind of large-scale policy change we see in legislation like FINI,” says Wholesome Wave founder and CEO, Michel Nischan.