Martinsburg, WV – Today, Eastern Area Health Education Center (EAHEC) and University Healthcare celebrate USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack’s announcement of $31.5 million granted through the Food Insecurity Nutrition Program (FINI).

National nonprofit Wholesome Wave received a $3.77 million FINI grant, of which EAHEC as a sub-grantee will receive $12,000 through this award.  The funds will be used to support increased access to fruits and vegetables for the lower income families of Jefferson and Berkeley Counties while also benefitting small and mid-sized farmers in the region.

“Our regional farmers market network works to increase access and affordability of fresh local foods for limited income families, and this award combined with support have received prior from the USDA and University Healthcare will make healthy local affordable food accessible for all,” says Mark Cucuzzella, MD, Professor of Family Medicine at West Virginia School of Medicine and project lead.

EAHEC has been committed to improving the overall health of residents in our community. The FINI grant will be used to double the value of SNAP benefits at local Farmers Markets.  “This will increase affordable access to fresh fruits and vegetables for SNAP consumers in Jefferson and Berkeley Counties, while also supporting local agriculture,” Cucuzzella said.

EAHEC received this award as a sub-grantee on a larger $3.77 million grant, which nonprofit Wholesome Wave obtained from the USDA to support their national network of nutrition incentive partners. EAHEC is one of 32 community-based organizations that will join Wholesome Wave in this Large-Scale FINI Project.

“This grant will increase our WVU School of Medicine efforts to improve health by reaching beyond a prescription pad or surgical procedure,” stated Konrad C. Nau, MD, dean of the WVU School of Medicine Eastern Division. “We want our medical students and physicians to not only understand what goes into good nutrition, but to engage our communities in making healthy food affordable and accessible. I congratulate Dr. Cucuzzella and the Easter AHEC team in achieving this grant award.”

Wholesome Wave’s network is a robust community of innovation and learning, linking incentive programs through uniform data collection and evaluation to support the expansion and adoption of incentives through policy. Wholesome Wave’s project is one of many that received support as part of the total $31.5 million granted by USDA in this cycle. 

With the award from Wholesome Wave, EAHEC will implement incentive programs at four markets in the region this summer.  Charles Town, Morgan’s Grove, Shepherdstown, and the Veterans Affairs Markets are all aiming to be up and running with the program by May of this year.

“We are thrilled to be working with such a diverse and competent group of incentive operators across the nation,” stated Wholesome Wave Founder/CEO Michel Nischan. “This network brings together organizations ranging from a flourishing farmers market group to a large scale nonprofit, capitalizing on the grassroots expertise of community leaders, while also building regional and national impact that allows us to enact the kind of large-scale policy change we see in legislation like FINI.”