National Grocers Association Foundation Chosen as Technical Assistance Partner for USDA Produce Incentive Grant

June 11, 2020

The National Grocers Association Foundation (NGA Foundation) announced today that it has been selected to be a sub-awardee for a federal contract to provide Training and Technical Assistance to retailers implementing produce incentive and prescription projects.

The NGA Foundation joins a coalition of partners under this effort, led by the Gretchen Swanson Center for Nutrition (GSCN) and Fair Food Network, and funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) through the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program (GusNIP), formerly known as the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive Program (FINI).

GusNIP provides Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants and low-income customers experiencing diet-related health conditions with incentives to increase their purchase of fruits and vegetables at food retailers and farmers markets. Through the program, incentives and prescriptions are offered in a variety of methods at the point of purchase. Retailers are reimbursed for the cost of the incentives and prescriptions they redeem by grantee organizations.

The NGA Foundation Technical Assistance Center will be tasked with collecting information on the different incentive instruments in use, the advantages, disadvantages and costs involved in each, and sharing best practices for implementation of these important programs as easy and seamlessly as possible at retail.

To assist with these efforts, the NGA Foundation has hired dedicated staff and expert consultants to facilitate the establishment of the Technical Assistance Center and support the provisions of training and technical assistance services. The NGA Foundation is pleased to welcome the following project team members:

Ted Mason, NGA Foundation Technical Assistance Center Project Director: Mason brings vast experience from former positions within the grocery retail industry, including as a retail technologist for the nation’s largest wholesale grocer, Director of Emerging Technology & Electronic Payments for the Food Marketing Institute, Director of Standards Implementation for the National Association of Convenience Stores PCATS (now known as Conexxus), and Executive Director of the Kentucky Grocers & Convenience Store Association. He most recently served as the Director of Information Technology for an independent 10 store supermarket chain located in Kentucky. Mason also served as chairman of the committee that developed the national standards for today’s SNAP & WIC card-based electronic payments systems.

Chelsea Matzen, NGA Foundation Technical Assistance Center Project Manager: Matzen brings experience from her time at National Farmers Union (NFU) where she managed all aspects of the Local Food Safety Collaborative (LFSC), a $4.5 million cooperative agreement between NFU and FDA. The goal of LFSC was to provide education, outreach, and training on produce safety to farmers serving their local markets. Prior to employment with NFU, Matzen was an Associate Consultant at Corner Alliance where she supported two grants at the Department of Commerce related to public safety broadband.

Patrick Jones, NGA Foundation Technical Assistance Project Assistant: Jones holds a bachelor’s degree from University of Richmond and a Master of Fine Arts from the American Conservatory Theater, located in San Francisco, CA. Outside of working for the NGA Foundation, he is an accomplished actor, writer and producer in New York City.

Kate Fitzgerald, NGA Foundation Technical Assistance Center consultant: Fitzgerald has spent 30 years working in the public and private sectors to design and implement programs that connect low-income shoppers with healthy, affordable food. She has expertise in local and regional food systems and has led successful policy campaigns at the local, state and national levels, most recently to create and provide permanent funding for the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program (GusNIP).  She founded Texas’s Sustainable Food Center and is Principal of Fitzgerald•Canepa, LLC.

Tim O’Connor, NGA Foundation Technical Assistance Center consultant: O’Connor spent 38 years with the Food and Nutrition Service at USDA.  While there, he served in a variety of positions throughout the agency.  He headed SNAP’s store operations, led the team that replaced paper food stamps with EBT, oversaw the beginnings of the conversion of WIC to EBT and served as Acting Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services for a six-month period. 

Jimmy Wright, NGA Foundation Technical Assistance Center consultant: Wright is lifelong independent grocer. He is President of Wright’s Market in Opelika, Alabama and Wright2U.com, an e-commerce fresh food delivery company.  He is also President of Wright Food Solutions, consulting with retailers, wholesalers, non-profits and community development groups in the areas of food access and food security, with a focus on inner city and rural America. Wright has testified before both the U.S Senate and House Agriculture committees on the importance of the SNAP program in our country.  Wright’s Market was the first independent grocer in America to offer Online SNAP along with Online Produce Incentives.

“We’re pleased to have been chosen as a partner in this initiative and to have built a strong team to lead to this important nutrition incentive effort,” said NGA Foundation President and President & CEO of NGA, Greg Ferrara. “Supermarkets serve an integral role in their communities by providing a wide variety of affordable fresh and high-quality food items. Many NGA retailer members have found that programs that deliver nutrition education to make healthy food choices, combined with customer incentives are an important resource for SNAP customers that can have a positive impact on their lives.”

Additional Background: The Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program (formerly known as FINI) was established in the 2014 Farm Bill (PL: 113 -79) to support projects that incentivize the purchase of fruits and vegetables for consumers participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The program is a joint effort between the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), agencies housed within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The 2018 Farm Bill (PL: 115 – 334) permanently reauthorizes GusNIP without expiration and provides a total of $250 million in funding over the years FY 2019 – FY 2023.

Media Resources:

Click HERE for NGA Foundation Technical Assistance Center backgrounder.

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The NGA Foundation is the 501(c)3 nonprofit arm of the National Grocers Association. The Foundation provides independent retailers with tools to develop more effective recruiting programs, enhance retention efforts and bolster professional leadership development opportunities for employers.

The National Grocers Association (NGA) is the national trade association representing the retail and wholesale grocers that comprise the independent sector of the food distribution industry. An independent retailer is a privately owned or controlled food retail company operating a variety of formats. The independent grocery sector is accountable for close to one percent of the nation’s overall economy and is responsible for generating $131 billion in sales, 944,000 jobs, $30 billion in wages, and $27 billion in taxes. NGA members include retail and wholesale grocers, state grocers associations, as well as manufacturers and service suppliers.  For more information about NGA, visit www.nationalgrocers.org.