Auburn University Hunger Solutions Institute to provide needed healthy milk to locations in four states

Graham Brooks | Communications Editor

A new initiative led by Auburn University’s College of Human Sciences Hunger Solutions Institute is launching to provide healthy fluid milk to more than 116 locations throughout Alabama, California, Georgia and South Dakota.

The launch is possible with a nearly $3 million United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) cooperative agreement for the Healthy Fluid Milk Incentives (HFMI) program. The USDA Food and Nutrition Service awarded Auburn’s Hunger Solutions Institute (HSI) the cooperative agreement in 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.”

Add Milk! seeks to increase the purchase of healthy fluid milk (nonfat and low-fat) by low-income consumers participating in 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.

A local retailer that will be positively impacted by Add Milk! is Wright’s Market in Opelika. Store owner Jimmy Wright will welcome members of the press, members of Congress, USDA National Leadership and Regional Office Leadership, the International Dairy Foods Association and other members from the retail community at a press event at 1 p.m., Friday, June 9, at the store located at 603 Pleasant Drive in Opelika.

“Wright’s Market is excited to participate in the USDA Healthy Fluid Milk Initiative in partnership with Hunger Solutions Institute,” Wright said. “Programs such as HFMI allow Wright’s Market to incentivize our SNAP customers to make healthy choices for their diet. The HFMI program will also allow SNAP customers to stretch their dollars further and put more food on the table for their families. We have seen great success in other USDA incentive programs and look forward to the HFMI being well received by our customers.”

Following the press event, a roundtable discussion and reception are set to take place at the College of Human Sciences’ new Tony and Libba Rane Culinary Science Center at 205 S. College St. in Auburn at 2 p.m.

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.

“Hunger Solutions Institute is thrilled to expand its leadership of nutrition incentive programs throughout Alabama and to other states in its leadership of Add Milk!” said Alicia Powers, managing director of Auburn’s Hunger Solutions Institute. “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. Through strategic promotion, rigorous evaluation and strong partners, Hunger Solutions Institute is honored to lead a nationwide launch of Add Milk!”

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. A foundational principle of HSI is that hunger is a solvable problem, but only when the relevant knowledge from all academic disciplines is combined with the abilities and strengths of all sectors. 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.