**FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE**
CONTACT: SARAH LOWRY
August 30, 2021
HEALTHY COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIP, CONGRESSMAN RYAN, COMMUNITY LEADERS, CELEBRATE CRITICAL INVESTMENTS IN NUTRITION INCENTIVE INITIATIVE
Warren, OH – The Healthy Community Partnership-Mahoning Valley (the Partnership) is celebrating nearly $7 million in state and federal investment in Produce Perks Midwest’s nutrition incentive program in Ohio. The celebration will take place on Tuesday, August 31 at 3 PM at the Warren Farmers Market.
Recent investments in Produce Perks Midwest’s Nutrition Incentive Program come from the following sources:
U.S. Congressman Tim Ryan (OH-13) and Tevis Foreman, Executive Director of Produce Perks Midwest will join local leaders, including Warren Mayor Doug Franklin, Youngstown Mayor Jamael “Tito” Brown, and Partnership members to announce and celebrate these recent investments that will help Ohioans access healthy food at affordable prices.
Produce Perks Midwest, an Ohio nonprofit, in partnership with the Ohio Nutrition Incentive Network, led the charge to secure these resources to sustain and expand nutrition incentive programming across Ohio, including in the Mahoning Valley. Produce Perks, Ohio’s Nutrition Incentive Program, more commonly known as “Double Up” or “SNAP Double Up,” is operational at over 125 locations statewide and currently available in 10 local grocery stores, 3 local farmers markets, and soon to expand into community stores in local neighborhoods.
Produce Perks, Ohio’s Nutrition Incentive Program, provides a $1:$1 match for SNAP and P-EBT beneficiaries to purchase fruits and vegetables from Ohio farmers, farmers markets and small-business retailers. In 2020, Produce Perks generated nearly $3 million in healthy food purchases statewide, which includes approximately $250,000 in the Mahoning Valley.
“Produce Perks directly impacts the health of individuals and our communities,” said Mr. Foreman. “We’re building a more equitable and efficient food safety net for Ohioans. Congressman Ryan, and the Partnership, are fierce advocates for the development of healthy, resilient food systems. Since 2017 Produce Perks has grown by 632%, the growth and impacts of this work simply does not happen without the leadership of Valley stakeholders. The commitments of the Partnership, Congressman Ryan and institutions such as Mercy Health, are making our region, state and nation healthier through policies and investments that support our local farmers and market-retailers, and give every American access to fresh and nutritious food.”
During the last two Ohio budget cycles, the Partnership and the Community Foundation of the Mahoning Valley (the Foundation) worked closely with Produce Perks Midwest. The Foundation made its first policy advocacy investments to support Produce Perks Midwest’s efforts to secure state funding to sustain and expand nutrition incentive programming in Ohio and here in the Mahoning Valley. The Foundation’s investment also supported Produce Perks Midwest and Partnership members to expand the nutrition incentive programming into new retail locations in Mahoning and Trumbull Counties and enhance promotion of the program.
“At the Community Foundation, we recognize the importance and power of advocacy in improving our communities and attracting support to our region,” said Shari Harrell, President of the Community Foundation of the Mahoning Valley. “The grants made to Produce Perks Midwest helped to leverage significant federal and state resources and build strategic partnerships, which will help direct these resources back to the Mahoning Valley, and as a result exemplify the benefits of investing in strategic advocacy efforts.”
Active Partnership member and community partner for multiple food access initiatives, Matt Martin, Executive Director of Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership, shares his perspective of the value of creating partnerships and advocating with one voice:
“Working with Produce Perks Midwest, the Healthy Community Partnership, and other statewide leaders has given us more opportunities to leverage larger state and federal resources to increase our residents’ access to fresh and healthy foods while also providing positive economic impacts for local businesses.”
Nutrition incentive programs and Produce Perks Midwest are not newcomers to the Mahoning Valley. Local foundations including the Mercy Health Foundation Mahoning Valley and the Trumbull Memorial Health Foundation, along with community partners like the Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation (YNDC) and Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership (TNP), began exploring nutrition incentive programs nearly ten years ago. Produce Perks Nutrition Incentives first appeared in the Mahoning Valley shortly after.
In 2017, the USDA National Institute of Food and Agricultural Science Financially Insecure Nutrition Incentives, now the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program, awarded $500,000 to YNDC. The total initial investment in nutrition incentives came to nearly $1 million with a significant financial contribution from the Mercy Health Foundation Mahoning Valley to implement the program in grocery stores and farmers markets in Mahoning and Trumbull Counties. The Mercy Health Foundation Mahoning Valley and YNDC continue to play important roles in improving food access in the Valley. Recent activities include awarding an additional grant to allow for unlimited Produce Perks redemptions during the pandemic and launching a new year-round Fresh Food Market on Glenwood Avenue in Youngstown. As the initial multi-year investment in nutrition incentives winds down, these dollars recently secured by Produce Perks Midwest will allow nutrition incentives to remain in place in local retail stores and at farmers markets across the Valley, building on the success started almost a decade ago.
Congressman Ryan (OH-13) has supported YNDC, TNP, Mercy Health and many more Mahoning Valley based organizations on projects to increase access to healthy, affordable foods while bolstering local growers and small businesses.
“Our food system is broken and ineffective. In a country where obesity and diabetes rates are skyrocketing, and where over 20 million people live in food deserts, we cannot allow the status quo to continue. This isn’t rocket science, you cannot eat healthy if you do not have access to healthy foods. That is why I have used my position on the House Appropriations Committee to secure federal funding to expand access to healthy and fresh foods here locally in Ohio and across the country. Not only is it the right thing to do, but it makes economic sense to fix our food system that is at the root of so much of our sky-high healthcare costs,” said Congressman Ryan.
Commenting on the urgent need for such programs that increase healthy food access in light of the pandemic, Mayor Brown stated that, “The health of our families in our community is key to the recovery from this Covid-19 Pandemic. Investing will be critical to ensure the health and vitality of our future.”
In 2018, the Food Research and Action Center’s “How Hungry Is America?” reported that the Mahoning Valley is home of the second most food insecure metropolitan statistical area in the country. The 2020-2022 Community Health Assessment indicated that an average of 11% of Mahoning and Trumbull County residents experience more than one barrier to healthy foods. The most common barrier expressed was cost: 15% of Mahoning County residents and 14% of Trumbull County residents identified the cost of healthy foods as the primary reason they are not able to eat healthier.
Congressman Ryan (OH-13) is a longtime champion of policies promoting increased food accessibility for Ohio families. In 2014, he wrote The Real Food Revolution: Healthy Eating, Green Groceries, and the Return of the American Family Farm. More recently, he introduced bipartisan legislation with A. Donald McEachin (D-VA) to incentivize food service providers such as grocers, retailers, and nonprofits to help eradicate food deserts: The Healthy Food Access for All Americans Act.
The Healthy Community Partnership of the Mahoning Valley is bringing together organizations and individuals who share a commitment to a healthier, more equitable Mahoning Valley and improving health, wellbeing, and health equity for residents in Mahoning and Trumbull Counties. There are three focus areas through which HCP-MV is developing strategies to achieve long-term, sustainable change: Healthy Food Retail, Active Transportation, and Parks and Green Spaces. The generosity of the following funding partners support the efforts of the Partnership: Community Foundation of the Mahoning Valley, Western Reserve Health Foundation, the Trumbull Memorial Health Foundation, the William Swanston Charitable Fund, and the Mercy Health Foundation Mahoning Valley.
AT A GLANCE
WHAT: PRESS EVENT & RECEPTION CELEBRATING NUTRITION INCENTIVE INVESTMENTS
WHEN: Tuesday, August 31, 2021, 3-4 PM
WHERE: Warren Farmers Market & Warren Amphitheater, 321 Mahoning Ave, Warren, OH 44483
WHY: Celebration of nearly $7 million investment of state and federal funds in Produce Perks Midwest Ohio Nutrition Incentive Program. Members of the Healthy Community Partnership and the Community Foundation of the Mahoning Valley worked with Produce Perks Midwest to secure these dollars for Ohio and will help bring some of these resources back to the Mahoning Valley.