The Hunger Solutions Institute (HSI) in Auburn University’s College of Human Services, has been awarded nearly $3 million to lead a Healthy Fluid Milk Incentives program for 116 retail locations in four states, including Alabama. 

Auburn is the only entity to receive a Healthy Fluid Milk Incentives, or HFMI, award for 2022. The funding from the United States Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service, is the latest in a longline of grants Auburn’s Hunger Solutions Institute, or HSI, has been tasked with managing since the HSI was created a decade ago.

The HFMI program fits the HSI mission of addressing food insecurity at home and abroad, particularly making nutritious foods more accessible for low-income Americans.

“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,” said Alicia Powers, HSI’s managing director. “HFMI will allow us to build on our success and expand to other states and retailers, as well as healthy food and beverages.

The HFMI program, a result of the 2018 Farm Bill, uses incentives to encourage Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, participants to buy and consume qualifying milk as part of a healthy, balanced diet. 

According to the USDA-FNS, fluid milk qualifying for the incentive program includes all varieties of pasteurized cow’s milk that (1) is without flavoring or sweeteners, (2) is consistent with the most recent dietary recommendations, (3) is packaged in liquid form and (4) contains vitamins A and D at levels consistent with the Food and Drug Administration, state and local standards for fluid milk.

After a pilot run in Texas in 2020, the USDA-FNS expanded the HFMI program in 2021 to additional retailers in Texas and New Jersey. 

“We applaud the collaboration between USDA, Auburn University and partner retailers to expand the Healthy Fluid Milk Incentives projects to bring healthy, nutritious milk options to SNAP participants in Alabama, California, Georgia and South Dakota,” said Michael Dykes, president and CEO of the International Dairy Foods Association. “Milk contributes 13 essential nutrients to the American diet, including high-quality protein, calcium, vitamin D and potassium, and health benefits including better bone health and lower risk for type-2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. 

 As we think about how to improve access to nutritious foods in line with the recently released Biden-Harris Administration National Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition and Health, these nutrition incentives are a positive model for strengthening the health of children and adults participating in SNAP.”

 This year, USDA-FNS authorized HSI to work with six retailers in Alabama, California, Georgia and South Dakota to implement the program at 116 locations, including those on federal Indian Reservations, urban and rural areas and numerous locations in Opportunity Zones, or economically distressed communities.

 All participating retailers currently serve SNAP households, some with more than 80% of their customers representing SNAP households. These retailers are supermarkets, independent grocery stores, convenience stores and innovative food store models. 

 Incentives range from an immediate percentage off discount to a dollar-for-dollar match for a future milk purchase.