Auburn University Hunger Solutions Institute celebrates launch of Nationwide Healthy Fluid Milk Incentive program

Graham Brooks | Communications Editor

The dairy aisle inside of Wright’s Market in Opelika is ground zero for an innovative program allowing shoppers to save money while making healthy choices. The Hunger Solutions Institute (HSI) in Auburn University’s College of Human Sciences is leading the initiative called the +Add Milk! Healthy Fluid Milk Incentive.

Friday, June 9 served as a celebration marking the launch to provide healthy fluid milk to more than 116 locations throughout Alabama, California, Georgia and South Dakota as members of the press, members of Congress, USDA National Leadership and Regional Office Leadership, the International Dairy Foods Association, members from the retail community, leaders from the College of Human Sciences and Wright’s Market owner Jimmy Wright were all on hand for the milestone.

“Today we have launched the healthy fluid milk initiative and we have seen great success,” said Wright. “There are two things with one being it certainly moves the needle in people’s lives in making healthier choices. It certainly makes a huge difference in the lives of our customers from a health standpoint but also there’s an economic benefit. We still have inflation in food categories so now we’re allowing not only the healthy options in the customer’s basket, but now we’re helping stretch that budget and I think that goes a long way.”

+Add Milk! seeks to increase the purchase of healthy fluid milk (nonfat and low-fat) by low-income consumers participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistant Program (SNAP). For every dollar of SNAP benefits a participant uses to purchase healthy fluid milk, +Add Milk! provides a dollar incentive as a coupon or discount to redeem for additional SNAP items.

The launch was made possible with a nearly $3 million USDA cooperative agreement for the Healthy Fluid Milk Incentives (HFMI) program. The USDA Food and Nutrition Service awarded Auburn’s Hunger Solutions Institute the cooperative agreement last October, making HSI the only entity in the nation to receive a 2022 Healthy Fluid Milk Incentives cooperative agreement.

“USDA is thrilled to see the launch of our Healthy Fluid Milk Incentive project through the collaborative efforts of Auburn University and dedicated local retailers,” said Cindy Long, administrator of USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service. “The +Add Milk! program is bringing healthy, nutritious milk options to Supplemental Nutrition Assistant Program (SNAP) consumers and driving economic development in underserved communities. It is a win-win for both participants and America’s dairy farmers. We further thank the International Dairy Food Association for their support of the project.”

The HFMI pilot program was established as part of the 2018 Farm Bill to promote milk as part of a healthy, balanced diet consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Overall, Americans are consuming less milk and in particular, low-income households usually purchase more high-fat milk than low-fat milk. Low-fat milk is an important part of a healthy diet, and health researchers have warned these declines over time could have health impacts on future generations. Studies have shown that incentive programs, like +Add Milk!, increase the purchase and consumption of incentivized food.

“Nutrition incentive programs, like +Add Milk!, are important in helping SNAP households access healthy foods by not only providing financial incentives, but also by collaborating with local, independent retailers who already provide incredible customer service to SNAP households,” said Alicia Powers, managing director of Auburn’s Hunger Solutions Institute. Through strategic promotion, rigorous evaluation and strong partners, Hunger Solutions Institute is honored to lead a nationwide launch of +Add Milk!”

Additionally, Long said she was happy to kick off the HFMI program at Wright’s Market because they have continued to be leaders serving the community by starting online shopping for SNAP customers, participating in the Double Up Food Bucks incentive program that puts more fruits and vegetables in customers shopping carts and more.

“The goal of this project is to encourage SNAP participants to add milk to their purchases and consumption as part of a healthy diet,” said Long. “I’m really pleased that we have the opportunity to kickoff this phase of the project here at Wright’s Market. As many of you know, Wright’s has a long history of serving its community and they’re special to us at USDA because Wright’s was one of the very first participants in online shopping for SNAP. The Healthy Fluid Milk Incentive project is just one way the USDA is working across our nation to support healthy diets.”

“A foundational principle of the Hunger Solutions Institute is that hunger is a solvable problem, but only when relevant knowledge from all disciplines is combined with abilities and strengths of all sectors,” said Susan Hubbard, dean for the College of Human Sciences and executive director of the Hunger Solutions Institute. “+Add Milk! does just that. The Hunger Solutions Institute in the College of Human Sciences is thrilled to lead +Add Milk! and its collaboration across communities, the retail sector, public policy, food assistance, and agricultural industries.”

The Hunger Solutions Institute (HSI) was established by the College of Human Sciences and the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station at Auburn University in February 2012 to further Auburn’s nationally recognized efforts in food security domestically and globally. By creating multi-sector partnerships at the community, state and global levels, HSI shares knowledge and best practices to leverage the power of collective action.

Click here to watch news coverage of the launch.