One in seven Rhode Islanders is food insecure, or lacking reliable access to nutritious, affordable food. Food insecurity is associated with diabetes, heart disease, and other conditions that contribute to lost productivity, lower quality of life, and rising healthcare costs. Poverty is the root cause of food insecurity, and many families simply do not have enough money to purchase foods that are sufficient for a healthful diet. Making healthier foods more affordable can reduce food insecurity and improve the health of those at highest risk of poor health outcomes.
SNAP nutrition incentives offer a solution to food insecurity. SNAP nutrition incentive programs provide a discount on fruits and vegetables to SNAP participants, incentivizing individuals to use their benefits to purchase fruits and vegetables, and allowing them to stretch their food dollars further. Having adequate nutritious food will help individuals lower their risk of developing diet-related disease, manage chronic conditions better, reduce the stress of food insecurity, and save healthcare costs long term.
In RI, SNAP nutrition incentives are currently only available at farmer’s markets and RIPHI’s Food on the Move mobile market. While these programs are highly utilized, most people do the bulk of their shopping at grocery stores. Programs that increase the buying power of SNAP participants and incentivize the purchase of fruits and vegetables in these locations are essential for reducing food insecurity in our communities.
RIPHI is using the data and lessons learned from Food on the Move’s SNAP nutrition incentive program, along with data and lessons learned from across the US to make SNAP nutrition incentive programs more accessible. RIPHI is working with partners including the RI Food Policy Council, Farm Fresh RI, the American Heart Association, RI Department of Health, RI Department of Environmental Management, URI SNAP Education Program, RI Department of Human Services, and others to develop a strategy and secure funding to grow RI’s SNAP nutrition incentive programs into a sustainable statewide program.