The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides nutrition benefits to eligible low-income households so they can purchase food from authorized food retailers. The goal of SNAP-Ed, a program under SNAP, is to improve the likelihood that people eligible for SNAP will make healthy food choices within a limited budget and choose physically active lifestyles consistent with the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the USDA food guidance, MyPlate. The Vermont Department of Health manages SNAP-Ed funding through a Memorandum of Understanding with the Department for Children and Families. With this funding, a multilevel food access project is being implemented that includes grants to community-based organizations to provide education and help food shelves, childcare centers, and schools make policy and environmental changes to increase access to, and consumption of, healthy food, and increase physical activity among SNAP eligible Vermonters.
Since 2008, the Vermont Department of Health has provided grants and training to community coalitions who were required to build partnerships with local health advocates, residents, and town leaders to work toward improving access to healthy food within municipalities, focused on low income communities. This has resulted in established or expanding community gardens, farmers markets, and local food hubs in order to aggregate and distribute healthy food to food pantries, schools and other local institutions serving high need populations, see page 10 of the Vermont Healthy Community Design Resources, Examples for Creating Healthy Communities: Physical Activity, Healthy Eating, Tobacco, Alcohol & Drug Abuse Prevention.
Offices of Local Health staff participated in the trainings and participate as partners in this work. Beginning in state FY2016, funding for all of the community coalitions ended. Many of the Office of Local Health staff continue this work, as appropriate.
Finally, the Vermont Department of Health staff lead the Vermont Nutrition Education Committee (VNEC), a group of professionals who meet regularly to discuss, plan, and improve coordination of food access efforts across the state, and are active participants on the Farm to Plate Food Access Cross Cutting Team and Farm to School Network, groups that are working to improve state policy and programs to increase access to local and healthy food among those Vermonters most in need.