Three States Testing New Way to Encourage Healthy Eating

July 10, 2023 by Dan McCue
Three States Testing New Way to Encourage Healthy Eating
(Photo by dbreen via Pixabay)

WASHINGTON — Colorado, Louisiana and Washington state are sharing in a total $25 million in federal funding to field test a new model for incentivizing fruit and vegetable purchases among participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

As part of the pilot program, each of the states will upgrade its SNAP system so incentive dollars can be loaded directly onto participants’ Electronic Benefit Transfer cards. 

In each case the idea is to test incentive models that reduce administrative costs, allowing more incentive dollars to reach SNAP participants. Two of the three programs are scheduled to launch in August.

The project in Washington state is expected to launch in January 2024.

In Colorado, $7.9 million will be invested in a pilot targeting a variety of small and independent stores, farmers markets, retail chains and locally grown foods. 

SNAP participants who purchase qualifying fruits and vegetables using their SNAP benefits will receive 100% of the dollars spent on the qualifying purchase back on their EBT card to be subsequently redeemed on the purchase of any SNAP eligible food, up to $60 per month, per household.

In Louisiana, the $9.5 million project will target marginalized, high food insecurity, tribal, rural, persistent poverty, low-income and low-access communities where residents suffer from diet-related diseases

SNAP participants in the state will receive $0.30 for every dollar of SNAP benefits spent on fruits and vegetables back onto their EBT card to be redeemed during a subsequent purchase for any SNAP eligible food, up to $25 per month.

In Washington state, a $7.6 million project will target communities with low-income/low access, rural, tribal, persistent poverty counties, high SNAP caseload, aging, young and culturally diverse populations. 

SNAP participants who purchase a qualifying fruit or vegetable using SNAP benefits will receive 100% of the qualifying purchase back onto their EBT card, which can be redeemed for a subsequent purchase of any SNAP eligible food, up to $50 per month. 

“USDA is committed to ensuring every family has access to affordable, nutritious foods,” said Stacy Dean, USDA deputy under secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services, in a written statement. 

“We applaud the selected states for stepping up and partnering with us to test and ultimately improve SNAP incentive programs. Together we will learn more about what works and pave the way for similar programs across the country,” Dean said.

Research has shown that SNAP incentive programs are an effective way to promote healthy eating and improve nutrition security. 

One study showed that SNAP participants who received fruit and vegetable incentives consumed 26% more fruits and vegetables per day than nonparticipants. Increased demand for fruits and vegetables also helps strengthen the food supply chain.

In addition to state-level projects, more and more local partners are implementing innovative SNAP healthy incentive programs. 

According to the USDA, offering incentives not only attracts SNAP customers to local stores but also gives stores the opportunity to have a positive impact in their community — making healthy foods more affordable for American families. 

State, local and tribal governments, SNAP-authorized retailers, and non-profit or for-profit organizations interested in launching a SNAP healthy incentive program can learn more and apply on the FNS website

The department notes that incentive programs can operate at a single location or across multiple stores.

Dan can be reached at [email protected] and @DanMcCue

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