History and Model – Wholesome Wave


Our History

Founded in 2007 by Chef Michel Nischan and the late Gus Schumacher, Wholesome Wave was created to address diet-related diseases by helping low-income Americans buy and eat healthy fruits and vegetables.

Millions of Americans suffer every day from nutrition insecurity as a result of hunger, making them highly vulnerable to diet-related diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. Wholesome Wave believes that solving hunger is not just about providing more food, it’s also about providing the right food, so we can combat the real problem of nutrition insecurity. As a professional chef and the father of children living with diabetes, Nischan learned through extensive research that simply increasing fruit and vegetable consumption could reduce the risk of these conditions while improving lives.


Our Vision For Change

Driven by their shared conviction that people in poverty want to feed their families well, Wholesome Wave was designed to use private funds to demonstrate what might happen if public funds were spent differently. By raising philanthropic funds to double SNAP benefits when spent on fruits and vegetables, Wholesome Wave proved that people in poverty wanted fruits and vegetables. Because SNAP recipients spend close to $100 billion per year on food, the implications for food systems change are powerful

The program became a movement that mobilized the buying power of low-income Americans and caused a meaningful shift in food commerce for local farmers, retailers, and food entrepreneurs.

Wholesome Wave also believed in the quote by Hippocrates, “let thy food be thy medicine.” By creating Produce Prescriptions in 2010, Wholesome Wave forged powerful partnerships with health clinics and public hospitals that grew into a Food as Medicine movement — leading to a 2017 Fast Company World Changing Ideas Award.

Sharing program outcomes from Wholesome Wave’s extensive network of community-based practitioners with key decision-makers in Congress, Nischan and Schumacher was instrumental in securing $100M for the food equity field through the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) grant program written into the 2014 Federal Farm Bill.

FINI was recently expanded to $250M in the 2018 Farm Bill to become baseline and permanent. Renamed the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program, GuSNIP permanently expands affordable access to fruits and vegetables for low-income Americans, while creating a legacy for Wholesome Wave’s late co-founder Gus Schumacher.


Working with our diverse partners helps us implement what works best in the places they call home.

We are proud of our diverse partnerships. From community-based organizations and managed care organizations to government institutions and generous funders, these partnerships help us identify and execute what works at the local level. Wholesome Wave partners make the power to choose fruits and vegetables a reality across America.

We deploy resources through effective national partnerships that help community-based organizations provide low-income community members with the resources they need to choose, buy, and eat healthy produce.

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Innovation offers an opportunity for people in need.

Wholesome Wave is a leader in innovative solutions that make healthy food choices happen for those we serve. We have a history of diverse programs, advancements in payment flexibility, and robust policy advocacy to meet the unique needs of individual communities, while foster broader systems change.

Our programs are some of the most customizable in the space. We have pioneered SNAP doubling programs, direct incentive programs, and created Produce Prescriptions. Our programs are designed to dynamically meet the unique needs of individual communities. Wholesome Wave’s Produce Prescription Program won the 2017 Fast Company World Changing Ideas Award.

Our history of innovation and investments in technology make our programs more impactful. We began with wooden tokens at local farmers’ markets. We’ve since grown our reach with solutions like produce credit cards and phone applications like Tangelo which allow us to more conveniently deliver benefits to our program participants. These innovations come with the added benefit of grocery home delivery, access to nutrition information, and the ability to demonstrate positive behavior change.

The data our programs and partners generate, provide powerful outcomes and stories that support our advocacy to positively impact legislation to effectively address nutrition insecurity.


Giving the underserved a voice and advocating for change

As a former farmer and USDA official, Schumacher believed in the power of food and knew there were decision-makers in Washington D.C. ready to listen. For more than a decade, Wholesome Wave has led the movement to ensure that underserved Americans have access to affordable fruits and vegetables–in Washington D.C. and at other levels of government.

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