SNAP incentives are additional bonus dollars given in the form of a discount or rebate on fruit and vegetable purchases to encourage SNAP customers to spend their benefits on healthy produce.
In Rhode Island, SNAP incentives are currently only offered at farmer’s markets and Food on the Move mobile produce market. Yet 90% of SNAP dollars are redeemed in the retail setting.
SNAP provides the largest single source of meals for low- income families in Rhode Island.
44% of all meals consumed by low-income households are supported by SNAP.
The Rhode Island Public Health Institute has emerged as the lead organization of a team of community stakeholders to implement a Retail SNAP Incentive Program.
In 2019, through funding provided by American Heart Association & Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Voices for Healthy Kids Program, RIPHI led a coalition of engaged community members and stakeholders to design a Retail SNAP Incentive Program.
**Sample schedules are reflective of the outdoor summer model for FOTM**
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is a program central to U.S. food security. SNAP provides the largest single source of meals for low-income families in Rhode Island (RI), supporting 44% of all meals consumed by low-income households.1 Approximately 1 in 7 Rhode Island residents received SNAP in 2019.
The RI Department of Human Services (DHS), which administers the SNAP program, reported that the average family of four participating in SNAP received $425 per month in benefits. This equates to approximately $1.18 per person per meal in SNAP benefits each month.
For many individuals, SNAP helps alleviate poverty and supplements food budgets, but in many cases, SNAP is insufficient to ensure a nutritious diet, as fresh produce is extremely expensive. Poor eating habits can lead to the development of chronic disease conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and obesity.
Research has shown that SNAP participants are more likely to be hospitalized at the end of the month, when food budgets are depleted, often for preventable diet-related chronic illnesses.5 Improving access to healthy affordable food can help individuals better manage their chronic disease and reduce healthcare costs.
SNAP incentives are additional bonus dollars given in the form of a discount or rebate on fruit and vegetable purchases made by SNAP recipients to incentivize the purchase of healthy fruits and vegetables. RIPHI’s mobile produce market program, Food on the Move (FOTM), as well as Farm Fresh RI’ s farmers’ markets, offer SNAP beneficiaries the opportunity to receive a 50% discount on their purchase of fresh fruits and vegetables. Through an evaluation of Food on the Move, RIPHI was able to gather data, highlighted here, that demonstrates the positive effects of the SNAP incentive discount offered. While both of these SNAP incentive programs offer great benefits, most SNAP recipients shop in retail settings. Bringing SNAP incentives to grocery stores would enable many more SNAP recipients increased access and affordability to fresh fruits and vegetables. This is also a public health plan that will also serve to boost the economy through increased purchasing power of SNAP recipients. Local farmers, retailers and produce distributors will also benefit from an increase in produce demand and sales.
RIPHI is leading a coalition of stakeholders across public, private and non-profit sectors to implement the Retail SNAP Incentive Program. The RI Department of Human Services (DHS), who currently administers the SNAP program, supports this effort and would be the permanent administrator for the Retail SNAP Incentive Program.
The agreed-upon program design is as follows:
The goal is to see SNAP incentives offered in grocery stores and other retail settings across Rhode Island. To do this, implementation of short-term and long-term funding strategies is critical. To meet these short-term funding costs for a pilot program, submission for a federal USDA GusNIP grant will be the priority strategy. Parallel to this short-term funding plan, exploration of long- term funding streams, including a health insurerer payer model and the passing of a Sugar-Sweetened Beverage tax, are under investigation.
Food on the Move makes healthy food accessible and affordable. The mobile produce market brings fresh fruits and vegetables to neighborhoods throughout Rhode Island and lowers the cost of healthy food through a SNAP incentive program.
Increased fruit and vegetable consumption is linked to a reduced risk of hypertension, and increased consumption of certain vegetables is linked to a reduced risk of diabetes in some populations. In Rhode Island, at least 17% of adults have hypertension and 9% have diabetes. Overall, research suggests that incentivizing fruit and vegetable consumption, by reducing the burden of noncommunicable diseases, is likely to reduce public spending on Medicaid and Medicare.
In addition to the population health benefits, we anticipate economic benefits including the creation of jobs in the retail, farming, and distribution industries. Participating retailers in Michigan experienced a 34% increase in produce sales between 2015 and 2016 following the implementation of their SNAP incentive program. Similar outcomes in RI could lead to an increased workforce in the areas that support retail produce sales.
1 Rhode Island Community Food Bank. 2016 Status Report on Hunger in Rhode Island.; 2016. https://rifoodbank.org/newsevents/ publications/
2 Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Rhode Island Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.; 2020. Accessed May 22, 2020. https://www.cbpp.org/research/food-assistance/a-closer-look-at-who-benefits-from- snap-state-by-state-fact-sheets#Rhode_Island
3 Bethany Caputo, e-mail communication, October 3, 2019.
4 Boeing H, Bechthold A, Bub A, et al. Critical review: vegetables and fruit in the prevention of chronic diseases. Eur J Nutr. 2012;51(6):637-663. doi:10.1007/s00394-012-0380-y
5 Seligman HK, Bolger AF, Guzman D, López A, Bibbins-Domingo K. Exhaustion Of Food Budgets At Month’s End And Hospital Admissions For Hypoglycemia. Health Affairs. 2014;33(1):116-123. doi:10.1377/hlthaff.2013.0096
6 Barlett S, Klerman J, Wilde P, et al. Evaluation of the Healthy Incentives Pilot (HIP): Final Report. USDA Food and Nutrition Service; 2014.
7 Borgi, L., Muraki, I., Satija, A., Willett, W. C., Rimm, E. B., & Forman, J. P. (2016). Fruit and Vegetable Consumption and the Incidence of Hypertension in Three Prospective Cohort Studies. Hypertension (Dallas, Tex. : 1979), 67(2), 288–293. https://doi.org/10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.115.06497
8 State of Rhode Island Department of Health. (2017). Diabetes Data. Retrieved 2020, from https://health.ri.gov/data/diabetes/
9 Mozaffarian D, Liu J, Sy S, et al. Cost-effectiveness of financial incentives and disincentives for improving food purchases and health through the US Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP): A microsimulation study. PLOS Medicine. 2018;15(10). doi:https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1002661
10 Riemenschneider P. SNAP Incentives Double Up on Retailer. SNAP Incentives
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