Establish a Partnership, Establish a Program

Retailers may have many questions about the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program (GusNIP) grant process: When should I reach out to a local grantee about participating in a nutrition incentive program? How often do non-profits receive funding? What is their application process like? Is there any way I can proactively establish a relationship so that when they receive funding, they know of my interest?

The NGAF TA Center is glad to answer any and all questions on how the relationships between the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), non-profit organizations and government agencies, and retailers function.

Below is a rough process and timeline of the USDA funding cycle for GusNIP projects. The exact dates are subject to change during each application cycle, but this is the general order of the grant process. Retailers typically begin the process with grantees at two different points. First, they could work with the grantee prior to an application and begin to build their relationship and program for anticipated funding. Alternatively, if a grantee does not have a retailer lined up to work with from their application, they will begin to seek out retailers post-award.

Request for Applications Released: The USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) releases annual requests for application (RFA) for the GusNIP program. Once USDA releases a request for application (RFA) applicants generally have 45-60 days to submit their proposal. Only non-profits and state agencies are eligible to apply, which is why a retailer must work with a grantee.

Awardees Announced: Roughly 4-5 months after applications are submitted, USDA NIFA notifies all awardees who must then confirm budget and budget narrative and complete administrative steps to activate grant funding.. Once finalized, USDA NIFA publicly announces recipients.

Funds Flow to Grantees: After announcement funds should begin to flow to grantees depending on paperwork and start of the fiscal year. The federal fiscal year begins in October which typically means funds could begin to flow to the grantee for implementation.

Partnerships Formed and Program Details Worked Out: (typically between award and start of growing season, approximately 6 months). Conversations/outreach occurs between retailers and grantees to establish details of the program and ensure authorization. Many GusNIP programs launch around the growing season in their state and may or may not run year round.

Retailers must be authorized by USDA to participate, navigating these five steps with their grantee:

  1. Retailer obtains SNAP authorization
  2. Grantee and retailer execute a memorandum of understanding (MOU)
  3. Grantee submits MOU to SNAP Service Retailer Center
  4. Grantee submits retailer information to USDA FNS
  5. FNS approves or denies

The entire authorization process can take up to 75 calendar days if the retailer is not SNAP authorized. If the retailer is SNAP authorized, it can take up to 30 days from the time of grantee submission of retailer information to receive notice of approval/denial.

New stores (once approved) begin a process to ensure everything is ready to go, the program design is properly executed, and to determine the amount awarded based on several metrics (e.g. SNAP percentage of sales, percentage of sales as produce, etc.). Once this process is complete, the grantee will funnel funds into their partnering stores.

Program Launch: All communications/signage are created for the launch of the program. The grantee typically provides marketing materials for stores (e.g., posters, flyers, rack cards). If retailers want to design their own materials, they should do so in collaboration with the grantee. Once the program launches, stores begin distributing incentives, and reporting/communication between grantee and retailer occurs on a (previously agreed upon) recurring basis (e.g., weekly, bi-weekly, monthly).

Year End: At the end of each year of the funding cycle, grantees and retailers assess the successes and shortcomings of the implementation and revise and/or continue their relationship for the following fiscal year. GusNIP-funded grant projects range from one to four years. Depending on the type, size, and scope of the grant, the longevity of the program itself may be variable. This aspect is ironed out in the application and confirmation stage between retailer, grantee and other participating entities.