The COVID-19 pandemic has forced organizations around the globe to bend and pivot in ways they never imagined, and the American Heart Association – Greater Phoenix Division and Pinnacle Prevention are no exception.
With the help of a grant and technical assistance from Voices for Healthy Kids, the American Heart Association – Greater Phoenix Division and Pinnacle Prevention secured $500,000 to help address food insecurity in Arizona. The dollars come from Arizona’s COVID-19 relief package allocated for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) fruit and vegetable incentives.
“The Arizona team quickly pivoted and started working with the governor’s office staff to make sure it was understood how the pandemic was impacting food insecurity,” said Nicole Olmstead, the governmental relations regional lead for the American Heart Association – Greater Phoenix Division. “This funding doubles SNAP benefits at approved farmers markets and grocery stores. So, if someone spends $10 in EBT benefits at a participating site, they get an extra $10 to use towards Arizona-grown fruits and vegetables.”
While COVID-19 exacerbated food insecurity in Arizona, hunger was already an issue in the state. In fact, prior to the pandemic, the American Heart Association – Greater Phoenix Division and Pinnacle Prevention were already working hard to secure an ongoing appropriation for the SNAP fruit and vegetable incentive program. Most members of the Arizona Legislature supported this work.
Then the pandemic hit and the Arizona Legislature ground to a halt. They paused all non-essential bills, including the SNAP fruit and vegetable incentive bill. But, to address the impending financial implications of the pandemic, the Arizona Legislature passed a $55 million COVID-19 appropriations package, to be divided out among several priorities, one of which is the SNAP fruit and vegetable incentive program.
“We know that having reliable access to healthy food is critical during this pandemic,” said Adrienne Udarbe of Pinnacle Prevention. “No one should have to choose between eating healthy and going hungry. This program ensures that all children and families can stretch their food dollars to buy the produce they need and want to maintain good health.”
The American Heart Association – Greater Phoenix Division and Pinnacle Prevention teams intend to return to the Arizona Legislature during the 2021 session to secure the ongoing appropriation.