WASHINGTON – The US Department of Agriculture announced it awarded nearly $3 million in new funding to Auburn University’s Hunger Solutions Institute (HSI), which will lead a Healthy Fluid Milk Incentives (HFMI) program for 116 retail locations in four states.

The HFMI pilot program provides a dollar-for-dollar match to participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) when they purchase healthy fluid milk options at qualifying food retail outlets.

Auburn’s HSI has a stated mission to address food insecurity at home and abroad, particularly making nutritious food more accessible to people with low income in the US.

The USDA authorized HSI to work with six retailers in Alabama, California, Georgia and South Dakota to implement the program at 116 locations, including stores on federal Native American reservations, in urban and rural areas and numerous locations in economically distressed communities.

Alicia Powers, managing director at HSI, said the institute is thrilled to lead the project for USDA and expand healthy food incentives for SNAP households in the US.

“While this is a first-of-its-kind award for HSI, we have a strong track record in implementing efficient and effective incentive programs with incredibly innovative independent retailers in Alabama,” Powers said. “HFMI will allow us to build on our success and expand to other states and retailers, as well as healthy food and beverages.”

International Dairy Foods Association president and chief executive officer Michael Dykes said the organization celebrated the latest funding in support of the HFMI program, which the IDFA helped create as part of the 2018 Farm Bill. Dykes said healthy dairy incentives help improve health outcomes for Americans.

IDFA and its leaders repeatedly have stated support for incentivizing SNAP participants to buy healthy dairy options and increasing access to affordable, nutritious food and beverages.

Dykes said the latest expansion involving HFMI projects provides greater access to people who are vulnerable and dealing with food insecurity.

“We believe a stronger focus on nutrition incentives like those provided through HFMI, alongside proper education and outreach, will improve access to affordable, nutritious dairy foods like milk, yogurt and cheese,” Dykes said.

“IDFA has suggested in recent months that the White House support expanding HFMI to become a national dairy incentive program that incorporates a wider variety of healthy, affordable dairy products that improve health outcomes for Americans,” he added. “We know such a program would work. SNAP beneficiaries rely on nutritious, affordable dairy products like milk, yogurt and cheese to nourish their families. They believe these products to be affordable and healthy, and, given a 50% discount, would purchase more of these products.”