Farm Bill Matters : Improving Food Access in Kansas City Through Farm Bill Legislation

Posted on April 3, 2024 by Alicia Alferman

Over the next few months, we will be highlighting the impact of important Farm Bill legislation and the very real impact it has on our community. We hope you will continue to join us in advocating for a better Farm Bill for all.

At Cultivate KC, we believe that access to healthy, locally grown food is a human right. We also recognize this access is far from even in our community, but that we can play a role in leveling the playing field. As an organization, we participate in several programs that help increase food access to low-income populations (Double Up Food Bucks, Senior Market Match, and Dotte Mobile Grocer). As a region, we have been the beneficiary of federal funds specifically set aside for food pantries to purchase food directly from local producers. In this week’s edition of Farm Bill Matters, we will highlight the impact of two of these programs.

Double Up Food Bucks (DUFB) is a region-wide program that adds purchasing power to recipients of federal food assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Specifically, anyone with SNAP benefits can shop at a DUFB-participating grocery store or farmers market and have the amount they are spending on fresh fruits and vegetables doubled, up to $25, every visit – providing a total of up to $50 available per trip. Check out the Double Up Heartland website to learn more about the program and to see a list of participating sites in the KC metro area, as well as throughout all of Kansas and Missouri.

In 2023, the 19 farmers markets and farm stands participating in the KC region distributed a staggering $163,873 in match – the largest amount since the inception of the program. The match is the total of 7,466 individual DUFB transactions, averaging $21.95 per transaction. It cannot be overstated how important this funding is to both consumers and farmers. For the full picture of the impact of the collaborative, in 2023 all participating farmers markets in both Kansas and Missouri saw a redemption of $252,343 in matching funds. Grocery stores in the KC-area reported $872,752 in redemption, and the total for grocery redemption throughout Missouri and Kansas was $1,695,387.

So where does the funding for DUFB come from? Fifty percent of the budget is comprised of local investment (from groups like the Health Forward Foundation, the Hall Family Foundation, Blue KC, the Kansas Health Foundation, and the Marion and Henry Block Family Foundation), and the other half of the budget is awarded through a USDA competitive opportunity called the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program, or GusNIP for short. Every four years, our local DUFB team must reapply for this funding that is authorized through the US Farm Bill. As our collaborative’s service area has grown, so has the budget – to roughly $12 million for four years of programming! One of the specific changes that we are joining our colleagues around the country in advocating for in the upcoming Farm Bill is to reduce the local match to 25%. This would allow the Heartland collaborative, and many Double Up collaboratives around the country, to continue and build on the current program levels.

The Local Food Purchase Assistance Cooperative Agreement Program (LFPA) program was authorized through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and provided up to $1.3 billion worth of benefit to state departments of agriculture. The departments of agriculture were tasked with partnering with hunger relief agencies in their states (food banks, pantries, feeding programs, schools and other organizations that reach underserved communities) to use the funds to purchase locally grown goods that would be distributed through a variety of methods. Furthermore, there was a requirement to source a portion of the products from historically underserved producers. Kansas received a $5 million budget and Missouri $12.3 million. To date, we have seen roughly $6 million of this budget spent with over a year left in the program. Missouri reports that well over half of the farmers benefitting from this program are categorized as historically underserved.

In the Kansas City area, much of this budget has been spent on purchases made through The KC Food Hub, a farmer-owned cooperative that aggregates produce from 25+ small to mid-scale producers within a few hundred miles of Kansas City. The Food Hub has worked with clients like The Alliance for Southwest Missouri to provide weekly or bi-weekly boxes with locally sourced vegetables, meats, dairy products, and grains. These boxes were then distributed to a series of food access points throughout southwest Missouri.

Farmers participating in Cultivate KC’s own New Roots farm training program have also benefited from purchases made through the LFPA program. Harvesters food bank in Kansas City shared a video highlighting this partnership, take a look!

While the GusNIP program, which provides funding for Double Up Food Bucks, is currently authorized by the Farm Bill, a program like LFPA is not. However, a recently introduced senate bill called The Expanding Access to Local Foods Act (or EAT Local Foods for short) could bring an LFPA-like program into the 2024 Farm Bill. This bill currently has twelve co-sponsors in the Senate (none from Kansas or Missouri yet), and our senators need to hear from you that LFPA is an important program that benefits both local producers and increases food access to our most at-risk populations.

Another bill that has been introduced in both the House and the Senate is the Local Farms and Food Act. The proposed legislation includes increased access to the GusNIP program (including lowering the match to 25%), improvements to other local food marketing programs, and increased funding for the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program. Furthermore, the updates proposed in this bill would build on the successful reforms from the 2018 Farm Bill.

As with all our Farm Bill Matters updates, we urge you to reach out to your Members of Congress today and express your support for these two important pieces of Farm Bill legislation. Follow this link for contact information for your legislatures.