US Department of Agriculture Grant Provides $890,000 Over Four Years for Produce Incentives at Corner Stores in DC
Washington, DC – DC Central Kitchen (DCCK) has received a four-year, $890,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program (GusNIP) in support of its acclaimed Healthy Corners program. The funding will allow DCCK to increase the number of small corner stores offering fruit and vegetable incentives to food insecure SNAP customers, purchase and deliver more items from local farmers, and engage more community members in outreach and nutrition education activities.
“We are excited to embark on this next chapter of Healthy Corners, proving what’s possible when we support communities, small businesses, and local farmers in meeting critical needs together,” says DC Central Kitchen CEO Mike Curtin.
All funds from this grant will be distributed by DCCK directly to SNAP customers via a “SNAP Match” incentive that allows customers to receive $5 in additional, free fruits and vegetables with each eligible purchase. DCCK expects to serve 20,000 food insecure households annually via this expanded grant with nearly 75% of all Healthy Corners stores now offering the “SNAP Match” incentive.
Muller Woldeabzhgi, owner of Wheeler Market, knows how powerful these produce incentives are for businesses and neighborhoods like his own. “We have a senior building a block away. And I keep hearing that these seniors are very grateful for this program. Not only does it help many seniors themselves, they are committed to telling others that they can come to this store and get these produce incentives within walking distance. They are very, very grateful.”
DCCK’s Healthy Corners program is the nation’s leading healthy corner store initiative, providing 54 independent corner stores with the refrigeration, technical assistance, and regular deliveries of fruits and vegetables they need to become robust, reliable sources of healthy foods in ‘food desert’ communities. The program first introduced produce incentives for SNAP customers in 2018, triggering a 162% increase in sales and proving that these incentives, which had predominantly been offered at farmers’ markets across the U.S., could be effective at small urban corner stores. Thanks to two previous USDA grants in 2018 and 2020, Healthy Corners tested and expanded its incentive model. This new Large Scale Project grant is nearly twice as large at those previous investments, allowing DCCK to engage more small stores and provide customers with more certainty at a time when food security and diet-related health disparities remain persistently high in Washington, DC.
“This innovative Large Scale Project will allow us to contribute to nationwide discussions and evaluations of how to make healthy, affordable food more accessible to SNAP customers and empower everyone to make healthier choices for themselves, their families, and their neighborhoods,” says Curtin. “Gus Schumacher, for whom this USDA program is named, was a long-time friend of DC Central Kitchen and a tireless leader of the movement to make healthy food accessible in every neighborhood. We’re honored to carry on his legacy through our project.”
DC Health has been a long-time partner and funder of the Healthy Corners program, and is providing the USDA’s required matching funds, ensuring the program’s day-to-day effectiveness and rigorous evaluation.
DC Central Kitchen (DCCK) is an iconic nonprofit and social enterprise that combats hunger and poverty through job training and job creation. Our approach provides hands-on culinary job training while creating living-wage jobs and bringing nutritious, dignified food where it is most needed in our city. We serve scratch-cooked farm-to-school meals in DC schools; deliver fresh, affordable produce to corner stores in neighborhoods without supermarkets; provide delicious catering; and operate three fast-casual cafes that also provide on-the-job training. To learn more, visit dccentralkitchen.org or follow @dccentralkitchen on Instagram and @dcck on X (formerly Twitter).